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The story of Larisa from a village near Mariupol

I have nothing left, I’m homeless now

-Where were you when the war began? 

– On the day the war broke out, I visited my daughter. We live in different villages: I rent a flat, while my daughter lives with her father, my ex-husband. I was on my way to visit her when, by chance, I heard the war had started – and I didn’t believe it! I was later told that some people in Mariupol were warned about the war in advance and left, if they had the chance. We knew nothing.

 

-Were they warned before February 24th (the first day of war)?

– Yes, yes, those from Mariupol were warned about it. We weren’t. When it all started, I chose to remain with my daughter. I stayed there for a week and a half. Their situation is a difficult one: my daughter is a single mother of three, and my ex-husband, her father, is an alcoholic. I didn’t even have any money on me; but, we decided that I had to get out. There was no public transport available, and we had to ask around. Thank God there were volunteers who helped me to get to Kharkiv train station for free. It was far, of course, but I had no choice. I left, and my daughter stayed behind.

 

-Where did you head after Kharkiv? 

– From Kharkiv, I went to Lviv on an evacuation train. There were so many people, some sitting in the train corridor. I was sat near a girl and her child. We sat there, the three of us, for 23 hours: her, her child, and me – with a single backpack. I then took a bus to Poland and got there without any issues. In Warsaw, however, it became clear that they couldn’t accommodate me as a refugee. There were more people than they could help, so I had to turn to friends for help.

My friends took me in, but realized after a few days that I had no money, and that there was no work for me in Poland. And there I was, full of hope that I could find a suitable job and help my daughter back in Kharkiv. But it didn’t happen. I had to keep moving, so my friends helped me to get to Georgia.

 

-How do you feel here, in Georgia? Did you settle yet? 

– You know, during the first month, I didn’t take a single step outside of my new home. I was scared. I didn’t know the language. When I was traversing across Europe on the bus I was fine, because everything was written in English – I could understand it. Here in Georgia, things are written neither in English, nor in Russian.

Slowly but surely, I began working as a cleaner and pot washer. Frankly, I have no idea of how I am supposed to get out of here. They gave me refugee status for a year, but I’ll have to leave to go somewhere else after that, and I can’t earn the money to do that here.

 

-Is your daughter still in Ukraine?

– Yes, she is still there. She has the same issue – she doesn’t have any money to leave. It is very hard for her and her three children: two girls, both 10 years old, and a little boy.  There is no humanitarian or financial aid. We sought help everywhere: charity funds, Kharkiv volunteers, the presidential office, and the Red Cross… But so far nothing has worked. Every month, I send her $50. It’s the most I can get together, working here – and they stay there, hungry. It tears my soul apart. I already applied for Georgian monetary aid, so perhaps I’ll be able to save some money to move to Poland, at least.

 

-Do you receive any help here?

– When I arrived in Georgia, I was in winter clothes and had only a school backpack with me. Two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear, a jacket and a spare pair of trousers. That was it! The summer was beginning to take hold, and I had no clothes, and no shoes. Now I know which volunteer organizations can help with clothes, food, and medical supplies. The latter is especially important, because medication here is very expensive. Still, I know I’m luckier than some…

 

-What are your next steps?

– Moving to Europe, most likely. What is there to do in Ukraine? There is no work, no home for me: the apartment I rented was bombed, destroyed by a missile, while I was with my daughter. I have nothing left of my life savings, and I no longer have a place to call my own. I’m homeless.

I’d like to stay here: Georgia is a wonderful country, they help so much. But it’s hard to live here. I’m trying my best to earn money, but it’s impossible here. I haven’t even tried to learn Georgian: I once memorized how to count to ten, but I’d forgotten it all by the evening. As my friend says, you’d need millions to live here.

18 August 2022

Georgia, Tbilisi, St. Petersburg street 7
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