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Fleeing Home: A Memoir by a Ukrainian Writer

Image by Engin Akyurt via Pexels

Last updated on June 14, 2023

Editor’s Note:

This article is a part of the Holos Project, a four-way partnership (ENGin, The Los Angeles Times Insider, Published Points of View, The Outspoken) established to empower the voices of Ukrainian students across the world through one-on-one journalism mentorship. This article was written by Ira Kumanovska from Ukraine with the mentorship of Ethan Rhee from the United States.

“Holos” is the Ukrainian word for “Voice”.

Imagine that today was your last day in this world. What would you do?

Now what if it was your last minute. What then?

Considerations like these are too terrifying to consider for one who’s sipping coconut cocktails while lying on the beach or has a plethora of money to spend on real estate. And then again, why would we ever consider these things? Put simply, you never know what second will be the last in your life.

However, I unexpectedly was forced to consider it; I wasn’t prepared for it. I had plans to build my career and then, at the snap of a finger, everything changed within just one night. Would you like to see what happened? I’ll tell you.

That night, I had a bad dream so I couldn’t fall asleep for a long time. After finally falling asleep, I woke up early at around 4:30 AM because of the strange noise of what I later found were GRAD rocket systems. 

Regardless, I decided to go to work that day but I got back after only an hour. It’s not because of my laziness. I just couldn’t bear the grief that was on the faces of everyone on the subway; the Russians had come. After this, I stayed home for 10 days (thankfully I wasn’t alone) where I wasn’t able to sleep or eat properly because I was so scared.

“What if I go to the kitchen and a bomb falls and rips off my limb? What will I do if there’s a fire because of a missile attack?”

These, along with many others, were the questions within my head. It was really unbearable.

 So, eventually, we moved. Like many other Ukrainians, my husband and I were thrown away from our homes. And the railway stations were unimaginably horrific. It seemed to me that I was in Hell. There were screams, cries, and so much depression.

Nonetheless, we managed. We survived, but not everyone was as lucky as we are.

Actually, everyone lost something because of this awful, useless war. I hate it. I’ve lost a part of myself and my soul. It’s hard for me to explain how drastically I’ve changed.

Now, many Ukrainians (and of course I’m among them) are trying to move on no matter how hard it is. We do this because we have hope. That is what keeps us conscious. We know that every day can be the last so we don’t waste it. Instead, we build ourselves up and build our strong country.

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