The story of Natalia Ivanovna, a refugee from Ukraine

When the house began to shake, I thought, that’s it: we didn’t hope for anything anymore

Early days of the war

On February 24, at five past five, they started bombing a military unit two kilometres away. I didn’t understand anything at first. I woke up when the house started shaking.

I’m so grateful to the guys from the territorial defence. As soon as they saw cracks, they quickly came and plastered them over. And our building manager was really good. He put cameras everywhere at once. As soon as the air-raid alarm sounded, he would go round all the flats and make sure everyone went to the basement of the neighbouring house. He would also close the entrances to the building so that no one from the street could get in. In the early days volunteers helped a lot: the shops were closed and they took food to the houses and distributed it.

«I feel sorry for it— it’s also a living creature»

I was looking at the fish in my neighbours’ flat. They have gone away. I felt sorry for it— it is a living creature. Every two days I would come, clean the tank, and change the water. When we left, I gave her to some friends. And when we arrived in Tbilisi, the neighbours went back to town to get their things, and showed me a picture: «Do you recognise your pet?» I said: «So she’s alive?» — «She’s alive, she’s very much alive!»

The shelling and the decision to leave

We probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere, but on March 23, we were on our way back from paying a utility bill when heavy shelling began. It turned out that two warehouses near Brovary, which is almost next door to us, were blown up. At home everything was rattling hard: doors, windows and walls. We thought they were going to collapse. We hid, covered ourselves, because we had no cellar. We could not run to the other house — the cellar was full of people from two houses. We stayed like that until the evening.

In the evening my nephew called, in tears: «Get ready, I’ve ordered a car for you, so be ready at 9 a.m.». We grabbed what we could. No warm clothes or summer ones — just one change. At 9 o’clock a taxi arrived to get us to Poland.

The road to Poland: «When we arrived, we fell asleep instantly»

I’m very grateful to Jura, the taxi driver. He drove so well, we slept like babies. It was half past ten in the evening, and we were already at the border. Nobody got there that fast. There we stood in line for six and a half hours. We were freezing to death. 

I want to say thank you to the volunteers who gave us blankets, hot food, and sweets. My sister’s blood sugar dropped and she started shaking — they gave her a chocolate bar. They carried our things. They took us and put us on a bus that went to a help centre where all the refugees were accommodated. When we arrived, we fell asleep instantly. 

In the morning they fed us, gave us some food and sent us on a bus to Warsaw, to the airport.

About her husband: «He was put up against the wall three times by the militants»

My sister’s son told us to come to Georgia. He works in Tbilisi, builds solar panels and wind turbines. He is very clever.

I am here with my relatives. I don’t have a husband. He died in Dushanbe after the war. He was put up against the wall three times by militants. He had three heart attacks.

In ‘92, there was a war in Dushanbe, where my husband was building roads. And as soon as he would go out for a check, they would put him up against the wall. The last time he couldn’t stand it anymore, he said: «I am trying to do my best for you, but why are you throwing me against the wall? You kicked us all out. I’m staying here, doing my job, and what are you doing to me?» And he had the first heart attack after that. I fought for him for six and a half years.

Communication with friends 

I keep in touch with everyone. So many have left. Some went to Germany, some to Austria. A severely disabled woman went to Austria, hoping to be placed in a special care hospital. But she was not admitted, so she returned to Brovary. I don’t care what could happen, she says. 

Sickness and help from volunteers

I found out about you at a humanitarian aid office, there’s a notice there. Our granddaughter was volunteering there and saw it.

I have diabetes and my bad leg is a consequence of it. I broke it and started to suffer from diabetic neuropathy, numbness. Even when my leg was stabbed deeply enough to draw blood, I felt nothing. Now that I’ve started taking pills I’ve begun to feel it again. Now I sleep well, my leg doesn’t bother me. 

Thank you so much for helping with the medication.

10 October 2022

Georgia, Tbilisi, St. Petersburg 7
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