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Invaded: Realities of war

Invaded: Realities of war

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In Lviv, Halyna feels quite far from the invasion. But for her parents, who live near the border with Russia, it is very real.


Listen to part one of Halyna’s story here.

And listen to part two here.

“So my parents have just called. There just has been an air strike on the town they’re in… And I’m very worried for them.”

Halyna

Hello, I’m Claudia and this is the Sensemaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world.

For the past few weeks we’ve been talking to Halyna. That’s not her real name, because she asked us to change it to protect her and her family. 

She watched from her apartment in Kyiv as Russia launched an invasion against her homeland.

“I believe that we’re strong. I have to be strong now. I’m going to be strong.”

Halyna

Halyna has since fled to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. But most of her family are still in a town just 40 kilometres from the Russian border.

“I even considered this kind of crazy option of taking a ride back to the north of the country, but the problem is that it’s very dangerous.”

Halyna

Today, we continue her and her family’s story as they try to make sense of the war in their country.

***

“So I am right now in the centre of Lviv. We decided to take a walk, two girls and I. It’s kind of weird because it does look very touristy despite everything. There are a lot of people here just walking on the promenade. You can hear the street music…”

Halyna

Lviv is a colourful place. Famous for its blue spires and chocolate, full of cobbled streets and cafes.

Right now, if you squint you could mistake this for any other lively European city in a country that’s not being invaded.

“You got this feeling of derealisation of what’s really happening. We met and sat in the coffee shop, which was kind of crazy.”

Halyna

But there are signs that things are different now. Like the statues.

“They kind of wrap them in these plastic things, almost like bubble wrap… They are also kind of trying to cover up the walls of some of the oldest cathedrals… it looks like aluminium foil, but it’s supposed to do something.”

Halyna

Or the fizzy drink aisle at the supermarket.

“It was empty because the company that does Coca-Cola and a bunch of other brands – they initially refused to leave Russia. But they recently have just caved in. And as I was there in the grocery store, I have just seen the employees putting all the Coca-Cola back up on the shelves.”

Halyna

And as you walk towards the station, the war becomes even harder to ignore.

“There are a lot of people there, transport buses transporting people to temporary shelters and the border… You’ll see a lot of people with suitcases and with backpacks and people with kids.”

Halyna

There are, in a way, two Lvivs – in strange parallel to one another.

“It was International Women’s Day. So you also get all these flower stands and flower sellers and, you know, flowers all blooming and the women are walking around with a bouquet of tulips in their hands. It’s just crazy. But then again you get to the railway station… instead of tulips, you get one of those burning barrels you can warm up near.”

Halyna

Elsewhere in Ukraine though, there is only war.

“So my parents have just called. There just has been an air strike on the town they’re in… And I’m very worried for them.”

Halyna

Halyna’s parents live in a town near Sumy, a city near the Russian border. Her eldest sister also lives there, with a seven-year-old daughter.

The town is close to the family’s heart. Halyna’s late grandfather was its mayor. 

Last weekend the town was bombed.

“Basically the whole historic centre of the town is destroyed. You know?”

Halyna

Fortunately no one died. Halyna and her family find themselves trying to laugh through the horror.

“It’s not funny but I’m sure you heard the big Ukrainian plane, Maria, was destroyed… Maria means dream in Ukrainian. So [people were] like: “Oh no, the invaders destroyed our dream.” And the joke in my mother’s hometown is that the air bomb destroyed a grocery store called Maria. So they destroyed our dream once again.”

Halyna

The attack on the town has left Halyna’s parents without power.

“The bombs severed some connections to the energy station… a large part of the region doesn’t have any power right now, so we have to limit communication to my family.”

Halyna

Halyna can only talk to them via text. Conversations have to be brief, to save battery.

“‘Hello, how are you doing?’ ‘I’m fine.’ ‘Is the power on?’ She says: ‘No, not yet.’ And I write: ‘Okay. Just hold on. I miss you and love you.’ And she just replies: ‘Okay.’ Not a woman of many words. “

Halyna

Worst of all is that on Tuesday, Halyna watched as thousands of people were evacuated from Sumy. But she wasn’t able to tell her parents.

“There was a real possibility to get our parents out, but we couldn’t take it because we couldn’t talk to them.”

Halyna

It would have been too big a risk to text them.

“The cell signal is so bad that if I message them, there is a good possibility that the message doesn’t reach them until the next morning, which is a problem.”

Halyna

So Halyna’s parents remain in their town near Sumy, without power but with each other. 

And Halyna is hoping to be with them soon.

“My mom’s birthday is in a month. She is turning 60. I promised her we will celebrate together in Sumy.”

Halyna

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