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Ukraine’s older girls share tales of heartbreak and resilience

Editor’s notice: This story is a part of As Equals, CNN’s ongoing collection on gender inequality. For details about how the collection is funded and extra, try our FAQs.

Kyiv, Ukraine (CNN) Ukraine has a big inhabitants of older individuals — one in 4 of its residents is over the age of 60 — and most of them are girls. Some lived via World Struggle II as youngsters, solely to see their lives disrupted once more in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and the battle in japanese Ukraine started.

When Russia then launched its full-scale invasion final February, many of those girls had been unable or unwilling to go away. Of the 4.8 million Ukrainians who’ve registered in different European international locations as refugees for the reason that struggle started, most are youthful girls and kids.

Older girls stayed in Ukraine and largely stay invisible to the skin world, regardless of their expertise, knowledge, and resilience.

Listed here are a few of their tales, edited for readability and brevity.

Valentina Romanova

Valentina Romanova is a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives in an assisted-living dwelling in Kyiv. Together with different residents, she was evacuated to western Ukraine for just a few months final yr however has since returned. Her mom and lots of pals and neighbors had been among the many greater than 33,000 Jews murdered by SS items and German police at Babyn Yar, a ravine in Kyiv.

Valentina Romanova lives in a Jewish retirement dwelling in Kyiv.

I’m outdated, I’ve lived my age. Youth is what’s vital now. Sadly, loads don’t see any views. Youngsters at the least don’t perceive what’s ready for them — all of the difficulties, all of the rebuilding and reconstruction. I really feel sorry for the youthful era.

What we needed to undergo after World Struggle II is simply flowers compared with the implications of this struggle. Such destruction!

We used to reside within the metropolis middle, close to the Golden Gate. There was a German Consulate throughout the road. Each different day a chubby man would exit and grasp a flag with a Nazi signal on it and we youngsters would throw rocks at him. There have been 4 of us from the identical yard — two boys and two ladies of the identical age.

“Now we have already lived via a struggle. We’re are from Kyiv, we will handle.”

Valentina Romanova

My mom was killed in 1941 in Babyn Yar. I didn’t find out about this; my father solely advised me once I got here again to Kyiv in 1944. My father despatched my mom to stick with his mom, however they had been Ukrainians and my mom, as a Jew, was endangering the entire household for hiding her. So she left for the town to stick with her pal. I used to be advised they had been hiding collectively in some shed and caught a chilly. I used to be advised she died of pneumonia. They didn’t inform me the reality for a really very long time.

I knew all of the neighbors from our constructing personally. Sadly, most of them had been killed in Babyn Yar. One of many boys we had been throwing rocks with, Shura, he and his household survived.

When Kyiv was being bombed, I used to be evacuated. I used to be 11 years outdated. It was sudden — I used to be taken from a summer time camp, whereas I used to be sporting my slippers, and grabbed my suitcase. Whereas we had been crossing the Dnipro river the bridge was being bombed. We managed to cross the bridge, however they shot on the prepare home windows with machine weapons. Grandma advised us to cover underneath the bench. It was a city prepare with picket benches. We didn’t perceive what was taking place. We had been laughing and didn’t wish to conceal. Somebody closed the window with a pink pillow and others had been screaming that the pink pillow could be a goal.

Romanova’s mother and father are seen on the far proper of this {photograph} from 1927.

Once we reached Kharkiv, it was clear the bombing would possibly final greater than two weeks. Chelyabinsk agreed to simply accept the entire prepare of evacuees and that is the place I lived till I got here again to Kyiv within the spring of 1944.

When the struggle began final yr, we had been supplied an evacuation. However all the residents had been in opposition to the thought. No one needed to go away. Whatever the shelling, no matter every little thing, we needed to remain in Kyiv. I used to be born within the Kyiv area and have lived all my life in Kyiv metropolis.

Now we have already lived via a struggle. We’re are from Kyiv, we will handle. No water? We all know the place the wells are. No meals? We aren’t afraid to starve. We didn’t wish to go away. However the dwelling administration mentioned they couldn’t do it. Both we go away all collectively or we go reside with our pals or kin. However most of us did not have anybody to go to. So we left.

Klara Ushakova

Klara Ushakova, 74, lives in Kyiv, her eighth metropolis since she and her household had been compelled to flee their dwelling in Donetsk in 2014. They hung out dwelling in Berdyansk, Uzhgorod, and Kramatorsk earlier than settling in Mariupol in 2016. When Russian troops invaded Mariupol final March, she needed to flee once more.

Klara Ushakova lives in an condominium in Kyiv after fleeing the besieged metropolis of Mariupol. She beforehand fled Donetsk when preventing broke out in 2014.

I actually cherished Mariupol, it was significantly better than Donetsk. I used to be not sorry to maneuver to Mariupol, not sorry in any respect. It was such an attractive metropolis. Clear and tidy. I actually miss it. We lived in Mariupol for six years and 4 months.

I miss my pals probably the most.

I’ve a pal, Krystyna, she was my neighbor. She at all times introduced me recent produce. I’d bake for her. I’d bake pizza and biscuits and pastries and he or she’d give me her produce. Butter, hen, rabbits, eggs, every little thing. She was feeding me a lot that I used to be embarrassed. Generally I wouldn’t open the door when she got here with the produce, and he or she’d simply grasp the bag on our door deal with.

Dwelling was simpler in Mariupol. Our individuals in Donetsk, I am unable to say I hated them, however once I noticed them go to the 2014 referendum (held by pro-Russian separatists on splitting from Kyiv) yelling “Russia!” I could not have good emotions in direction of them, and I hate them now. I hate them now.

I do not keep in mind the date the explosions began. We got here out onto the touchdown, and my husband mentioned: “Look!” And I noticed 9 tanks with the letter Z standing by our condominium block. A white letter Z.

“There was no shelter. There was nobody to place the hearth out.”

Klara Ushakova

We had been actually scared. It was as in the event that they had been watching somebody.

We might hear somebody operating up the steps, some army males. Perhaps they had been Azov fighters, I do not know. I could not inform who was who. They went as much as the ninth ground, and so they will need to have fired on the tank that stood subsequent to the constructing. The tank blew up, and a part of the constructing caught hearth. A bit of the turret flew into my neighbor Krystyna’s kitchen.

The whole lot was blown aside, from the ninth ground to the bottom. The whole lot. There was thick smoke from the hearth. We placed on masks and ran down, however there was gunfire on the street. There was no shelter. There was nobody to place the hearth out. No hearth vehicles, nothing. No water. That is it. The place might we go? We watched the tank burn down and went again dwelling.

Once we fled, we spent three days in Berdiansk. Within the sports activities middle there, all of us needed to register. Filtration. I mentioned, “Hi there, I’m outdated, my husband is ailing, can we please go away. I can not go away my husband alone.”

We had been advised to go to the evacuation buses. We acquired on the buses, however they weren’t allowed to go away. We had been ready and ready and ready. And nothing was taking place. After which, on the third day, the motive force mentioned we might lastly go, and we began transferring in direction of Zaporizhzhia.

There have been 22 Russian checkpoints alongside the route.

Hanna Serhiienko

Hanna Serhiienko, 65, lives in a small village about two hours south of Kyiv, the place her home acts as a hub for native volunteers making camouflage nets for the entrance traces.

Hanna Serhiienko makes nets for the Ukrainian army at her dwelling in Vynarivka.

The struggle didn’t begin a yr in the past. It began in 2014. I used to be retired however nonetheless working and I didn’t know tips on how to assist. I couldn’t go to the entrance traces. Then I noticed individuals weaving camouflage nets on TV. So, I discovered like-minded individuals, give up my job and on December 9, 2014 we began weaving.

After I despatched a photograph of the primary internet we made to the volunteers in Odesa, they mentioned, ‘This isn’t a internet, this can be a carpet!’ It was method too dense.

When the full-scale invasion began, I posted on Fb calling my neighbors to come back and be part of the weaving. They usually did! The youngsters are actually having fun with it.

We attempt to mimic nature. There are not any single-colored blocks or straight traces in nature.

I grew up within the Bulgarian district within the Odesa area. Bulgarians settled there throughout the Russian-Turkish struggle. Everyone speaks Bulgarian there. Once we went to high school, they taught us Russian. The primary time I heard Ukrainian was in highschool. In my first task, I made 140 errors!

Hanna’s husband, Ivan Serhiienko, makes candles for the troopers to make use of in front-line trenches.

I’ll always remember my Bulgarian roots, however I used to be born and raised in Ukraine, I reside in Ukraine. So, I often say we’re Bulgarian-Ukrainian.

In winter, once we are weaving, we do “soiled snow” colours. It’s not totally white, however fairly with some blotches. Now, it is not spring but and there is not any grass, so we use gray and black and slightly little bit of inexperienced in some spots. In April there can be extra inexperienced and we are going to add some colours. After which ranging from July, and this was completely different final yr in comparison with earlier than, as a result of we wove for Kherson, which is completely different from Donbas, we are going to use yellow and brown colours. After which for September and October it is yellow and pink, just like the leaves.

Each time we weave the winter camouflage nets, I feel “I hope this would be the final time we make them.” Every season, we hope that we’re making this season for the final time and can by no means must do it once more. However sadly, for all these years, we have been coming again once more.

Valentina Tokariova

Valentina Tokariova, 85, was born in Russia. She moved to Ukraine as a younger girl and lived in Donbas in japanese Ukraine for 60 years, till the struggle began there in 2014. She fled to Kyiv and has been dwelling there ever since.

Valentina Tokariova knits a vest in her condominium on the Jewish retirement dwelling the place she lives in Kyiv.

I spend a whole lot of time on my laptop. I like to observe TV and movies on YouTube. Because the struggle began, I largely watch political movies. A lot of information and interviews and consultants speaking concerning the scenario. I imagine we can be victorious. No matter occurs, we can be victorious. You may’t come right into a overseas land and take every little thing, it doesn’t make sense.

I’m Russian by beginning, born in Novosibirsk. So, in my head, I nonetheless don’t perceive how this occurred and the way there is usually a struggle. I assumed it was inconceivable.

I got here to Donbas in 1962. I used to be 23 and I adopted a younger man. He isn’t value telling you about. We lived collectively for seven years after which he deserted me and our son.

For 60 years, I’ve been dwelling in Ukraine. I labored my complete life for Ukraine, that is my household, my dwelling, that is my nation. I’m Ukrainian now. I take into account Ukrainian tradition my very own.

I lived in Donetsk and I had a lot of pals there, a few of whom I’ve been pals with for 60 years. In 2014, a few of my pals left to reside with their youngsters in Kyiv area. They usually had been telling me: “We fear for you. Simply come right here, don’t be silly.” So I did.

“I nonetheless don’t perceive how this occurred and the way there is usually a struggle. I assumed it was inconceivable.”

Valentina Tokariova

In Donetsk, many individuals converse in Surzhyk (a mix of Ukrainian and one other language, typically Russian). I at all times felt snug there.

We’d get along with the neighbors in my nation home and we’d dance and have a superb time collectively it doesn’t matter what language individuals spoke. The entire settlement is gone now, burnt to the bottom. I had a pleasant backyard, a lot of crops. Particularly the garlic, it was rising so properly there.

My son handed away greater than 10 years in the past. I used to be very depressed when he died. I assumed I’d by no means make it via. My pals helped me and little by little, I acquired higher. Each mom thinks her son is good-looking, however my son was very good-looking. He favored sports activities, he favored biking and to play desk tennis with me. We had been evenly matched.

He died earlier than the struggle began. He was very ailing, I used to be caring for him. He was scheduled for an operation, however he died earlier than he might have it. I buried him in Donetsk and now I can’t even go to go to his grave.

Nadiya Lutsenko

Nadiya Lutsenko, 83, is a former instructor of Ukrainian language from Donbas. She was compelled to flee her dwelling in 2014 after which once more in 2022. She loves Ukrainian literature and retains updated with up to date authors. She now lives along with her sister in Kyiv.

Nadiya Lutsenko poses for a portrait behind a lace curtain within the Kyiv condominium the place she lives along with her sister.

Life has modified a lot that I simply see a useless finish.

Till just lately, I lived within the Bakhmut district of Donetsk area. I needed to go away in 2014 after the primary occasions within the Donetsk area. For a while, I lived in Kamianets-Podilskyi with my sister after which I got here again and lived in Donbas. I hoped that in some way life would get higher.

In 2022, there have been troops there, guarding, defending us, nevertheless it did not work out.

When the Russians invaded our village, they destroyed all the place. I used to be already 82 years outdated and thought I’d reside out my life there. I buried my son and my husband within the village. Their graves had been destroyed. I did not even take the childhood pictures of my son and household with me. I’ve nothing. I don’t remorse shedding my property or something, however I want I had these pictures.

Lutsenko holds a e-book by well-known Nineteenth-century Ukrainian creator Taras Shevchenko.

I used to be caught within the blast wave when our home in Donbas was bombed. Our village was shelled for 2 weeks and we had been sitting underneath the explosions and my ears had been blocked. I acquired some therapy, however nothing helped. I nonetheless cannot hear very properly, and I’ve complications.

I used to be born throughout World Struggle II. I used to be a toddler of the struggle in opposition to fascism and now I’m a grandmother of the struggle in opposition to Ruscism. We Ukrainians liberated Europe along with the Russians. My father took half within the liberation and died in Poland, leaving my mom on her personal with 4 youngsters. He died, however we survived.

“I buried my son and my husband within the village. Their graves had been destroyed.”

Nadiya Lutsenko

I labored for 50 years at a faculty as a Ukrainian language instructor. I like Ukrainian literature from the interval earlier than the 1917 revolution. Marko Vovchok and different authors. The language may be very lovely there. Amongst up to date Ukrainian authors, I like Vasyl Skliar. His Ukrainian language is simply great.

However to discover Ukrainian literature one ought to, after all, begin with “Kobzar” by (Taras) Shevchenko. I like what Shevchenko writes and the way he writes. It has an actual soul. I keep in mind Shevchenko’s phrases at night time: “It’s dawning, the sting of the sky is burning, a nightingale in a darkish grove meets the solar, the wind is blowing softly.”

Lidia Terepniova

Lidia Mikhailovna Terepniova, 74, is a volunteer on the Halom Jewish Neighborhood Heart in Kyiv. Throughout the first months of the invasion, she was coordinating humanitarian help distribution among the many middle’s shoppers. Her son has emigrated to Israel, however she needs to remain dwelling, the place all her pals are.

Lidia Terepniova lives in Kyiv and volunteers on the Halom Jewish Neighborhood Heart.

My dad was born and raised in Kyiv, in Podil. He was a soldier liberating Kharkiv when he noticed my mother and fell in love along with her. They acquired married there. So I used to be born in Kharkiv however we moved to Kyiv in 1950.

It was a really tough time after the struggle. The whole lot needed to be began from scratch. You wanted new spoons, new tablecloth, new every little thing! My father was very useful, so he would construct furnishings himself.

We lived within the Pechersk residential district, however my mother was working in Podil. So, day-after-day I’d journey a tram with my mother all the way in which from Pechersk to Podil, which took greater than an hour a method. I favored it again then. However then 30 years later I could not stand the trams anymore, I used to be getting sick of them.

After I was 13 or 14 years outdated, my mother and father organized a birthday celebration for me, as a result of I complained it was boring at college. My mum mentioned: “Properly nobody goes to entertain you, until you do it your self.” So I invited my pals over. They cherished it. We danced loads and listened to music.

“If there is a pleasure, you’ll be able to share it. If there is a sorrow, it is simpler to get via all of it collectively.”

Lidia Terepniova

I am nonetheless in contact with my classmates. We both collect at my place or at one other classmate’s home. We speak about our youngsters and our faculty days. My two finest pals had been very sensible however very naughty again then. They at all times acquired straight As, however this one time they acquired a B for habits. We nonetheless keep in mind that and snort about it generally!

Seven years in the past, I started volunteering on the Halom middle. I’d name individuals and invite them to go to. When the struggle began, I used to be calling individuals and asking in the event that they wanted something: meals, medicines, companies and so forth. Lots of people from right here evacuated and left and now they’re calling on a regular basis and asking how we’re and what’s taking place within the middle. They miss the neighborhood loads.

Now we have “Dance and Meet” membership on Fridays, though we already know one another properly.

All my pals are right here. I discuss to them day-after-day. I merely couldn’t go away! The truth that I’m not alone helps me to get via. We’re serving to one another. If there is a pleasure, you’ll be able to share it. If there is a sorrow, it is simpler to get via all of it collectively.

Nadia Krasnozhon

Nadia Krasnozhon, 87, is a Ukrainian poet and a former political activist. She was a member of Narodnyi Rukh, the primary opposition occasion in Soviet Ukraine, and took half within the 1990 pro-independence protest marketing campaign often called Revolution on Granite. She returned to the location of the protests — Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Sq. — in 2004 for the Orange Revolution and once more in 2014 throughout the Revolution of Dignity. She lives in a small village about an hour east of Kyiv and is engaged on a brand new poetry assortment centered on the struggle with Russia.

Nadia Krasnozhon reads a few of her poetry on the retirement dwelling the place she lives in Peremoha.

I used to be born on this village, and I’ve lived right here my complete life. It was once referred to as Yadlivka earlier than Communists renamed it Peremoha (Ukrainian for “Victory”).

Throughout World Struggle II, the Germans kicked all people out of the village and burnt it. Everybody was taken to Brovary and segregated into teams. Those that had been robust and younger had been taken to Germany. Those that had a whole lot of children had been despatched to Vinnytsia, southwest of Kyiv. The remaining had been despatched north to a focus camp in Brovary. I used to be within the third group. We had been saved behind barbed wire till Brovary was liberated.

Once we requested how Yadlivka was, we had been advised that the church and roosters had been the one ones that survived.

I have been writing poetry since childhood, however I had by no means revealed something earlier than retiring. Since then, I’ve revealed 5 collections of poems. My motto is “I’m writing when I’ve one thing to say.”

Krasnozhon, a former political activist, is engaged on a brand new poetry assortment centered on the struggle with Russia.

I wrote a poem “Yadlivka can’t be burnt” which is concerning the German occupation after which Russian occupation.

I might have by no means imagined that there could be one other struggle, one other occupation. I keep in mind when the Russians introduced their army gear near our border final yr, a nurse requested me: “What do you assume, will they assault?” And I mentioned: ‘”That may’t occur.”

I assumed they had been higher than they turned out to be.

The Russians got here to Peremoha on February 28. The troopers got here to our care dwelling too. They had been searching for partisans, checking every room. They got here day-after-day. Then, once they opened the evacuation corridors, we had been evacuated to Rzhyshchiv, simply south of Kyiv.

Liudmyla Vaisburg

Liudmyla Vaisburg is 92 years outdated. Aside from a short interval throughout World Struggle II, she has spent her total life in Kyiv. She began shedding her sight when she was younger and says she wasn’t allowed to have youngsters due to her incapacity. She lives in an assisted-living dwelling in Kyiv.

Liudmyla Vaisburg rests her hand on a window in her condominium.

Vaisburg has lived in Kyiv most of her life.

I used to be 10 when World Struggle II began. I lived via all of it — the bombing, the evacuation.

We had been evacuated to Ufa in Russia. It took us greater than a month to get there. My mother had two of us, me and my youthful brother. So she took us to the railway station and tried in some way to get on the evacuation prepare. We packed our stuff right into a bucket and when individuals noticed her with it, they grabbed her and pulled her in. This bucket turned out to be a really important object for us later. We acquired some water in it, some soups, though very seldom. This bucket truly saved us.

It was very scary. Our prepare was underneath bombardment. I keep in mind we had been in Lysychansk and there was one other evacuation prepare proper in entrance of us and it acquired bombed. I keep in mind there was a girl hanging from the roof of a prepare. A useless girl. She was holding a child in her palms.

After I noticed this, I cried and mentioned “Mommy, I wish to reside.”

I used to be solely 10 years outdated. It was very tough.

“We might have by no means imagined there could be one other struggle. Second struggle and second evacuation.”

Liudmyla Vaisburg

My father went to struggle on the third day of struggle. He made it via the entire struggle. However sadly, he died on Might 9, 1945. He died of a stray bullet in Szczecin. We obtained photos and a letter from him dated Might 8. It was filled with pleasure and it mentioned, “We cannot have a trip once we come again, however hopefully those that’ve been via all of it can be allowed to go and meet our households!” After which we obtained a letter from his commander that we misplaced a father and a husband, and so they misplaced a brother-in-arms.

We might have by no means imagined there could be one other struggle. Second struggle and second evacuation.

After I graduated at 19, I already had a gray hair strand. That’s once I began dyeing my hair, as a result of I used to be advised, “Why are you so younger and already with gray hair!”

We got here again to Kyiv in 1945 and apart from my travels, I’ve not left Kyiv since. I traveled everywhere in the USSR. I attempted to journey on every trip. I used to be a faculty instructor, so I had lengthy holidays. I actually loved touring. I needed to go in all places.

I needed to give up educating as a result of I began shedding my sight and wasn’t allowed to work on the college anymore. That was 1985. I labored on the college for 18 years. I then labored on the college within the electrochemistry lab. Right here, I had a whole lot of enterprise journeys so I used to be touring once more. I used to be married, generally we traveled collectively, however I used to be not allowed to have youngsters due to my imaginative and prescient.

Sadly, now I can solely dream of touring. Now I’m affected by lack of walks and recent air as a result of I am not allowed to exit alone. Now I can solely journey across the constructing.

Yulia Hermanovska

Yulia Hermanovska is 79. She has been dwelling on her personal in Kyiv since her husband died 5 years in the past. She nonetheless doesn’t prefer to go to the room they shared, the place he handed away, preferring as a substitute to sleep on the couch.

Yulia Hermanovska lives on her personal in an condominium in Kyiv.

I’ve most cancers, fourth stage. I have been preventing it for 3 years already, that is my fourth.

When individuals have a look at me, they’ll by no means inform I’ve most cancers. I do not remorse something. I’ve lived for 79 years — that is good!

Throughout the struggle my physician evacuated on the precise time I used to be as a result of begin my therapy, in February 2022. She solely got here again in Might. I felt actually dangerous on the time, however by the tip of Might I began intensive remedy. I really feel so significantly better now! After I was recognized in 2020, I used to be advised I’d have two to 5 years. We’ll see.

I lived in a village on the Ukrainian-Polish border and we spoke Surzhyk (a combination) of Ukrainian and Polish. After I got here to Kyiv on the age of 14 to reside with my sister, nobody understood me as a result of the phrases I spoke had been derived from Polish. Everybody was talking Russian. So I attempted to modify too. I did not need others to snort at me and my Ukrainian-Polish language.

I’ve at all times favored the Ukrainian language extra, however I used to be compelled to talk Russian as a result of it was not trendy and standard to talk Ukrainian again then. It was thought-about a villagers’ language.

“I do not remorse something. I’ve lived for 79 years — that is good!”

Yulia Hermanovska

The final seven and half years of my profession, I labored as a librarian on the Nationwide College of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. After I had the job interview, they advised me if I needed to work there I might solely use two languages: English or Ukrainian. So I needed to swap again to Ukrainian on the age of fifty, having spoken Russian all my grownup life.

I give up when it was time for me to retire, though they didn’t need me to go. However the mushroom season was beginning, so I left. I like selecting mushrooms. I am an addict actually. I might go mushroom selecting with my husband, my neighbors and even alone. I actually loved going to the forest at dawn, the recent air!

I used to pickle them in a glass jar. My mushrooms had been so tasty my in-laws used to actually love them! I’d give them the entire field of jars. I don’t truly like consuming mushrooms. Simply selecting.

Sadly, my husband acquired sick once I was 70 and I ended going out for mushrooms, though I nonetheless had the vitality. When my husband died, I took a yr to “resurrect,” so to say. However then I acquired most cancers. And since then, I have not gone mushroom selecting. I dream of them. After I cannot go to sleep, I image these meadows, these moments when I discovered mushrooms.

Klara Rozkishna

Klara Rozkishna, 94, spent 40 years educating chemistry in Donetsk, japanese Ukraine. She was compelled to flee her dwelling in 2014 when preventing broke out between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces. Pondering she would solely be away for just a few weeks, she packed the naked minimal. It’s now been 9 years since she left the city. She lives in Kyiv along with her daughter.

Klara Rozkishna lives in an condominium in Kyiv along with her daughter. She fled Donetsk in 2014.

I needed to develop into a physician. After I got here to the college to submit my software, they requested what I wish to research, and I mentioned I needed to put on a white lab coat and scent the scent of medicines. They usually mentioned, “That is a chemist!” In order that’s what I utilized for. I began on the college in 1948.

After graduating, I labored in a manufacturing unit. However I wasn’t meant for that work, and solely stayed there for just a few months. Then I grew to become a instructor.

I first met my husband at college and as soon as we grew to become a pair, we had been collectively for 61 years, 8 months and seven days. Till his coronary heart stopped 4 years in the past. Not a day passes by with out me lacking him.

I keep in mind the Holodomor famine in 1932. I used to be 5 years outdated once we fled from the extra central Vinnytsia area to Kostiantynivka within the east and keep in mind homeless youngsters; they had been sleeping in an overturned barrel. We didn’t go hungry as a result of factories had been working in Donbas.

When there was a struggle in 1941, we fled. In Uzbekistan, the place we went, we got lodging, we got a roof over our heads. So sure, I fled 3 times.

An outdated {photograph} of Rozkishna and her husband, who died in 2009.

There was one other famine in 1947. We got 100 grams of bread, we collected it and took a loaf to our instructor whose spouse was in mattress, she couldn’t get off the bed. We gave him this bread.

We left Donetsk on Might 29, 2014. As soon as we noticed Russian tanks, we left instantly.

Donetsk was once an attractive metropolis. It was referred to as the town of one million roses. One would assume it is a miners’ metropolis, however there have been so many roses! We used to reside downtown and I cherished strolling alongside the Pushkin Boulevard. It was very inexperienced. Me and my husband lived in a home near the Kalmius river. It was such an attractive spot, so many flowers!

We deserted every little thing we had there and locked our condominium. My husband died in 2009 and is buried in Donetsk. I even purchased a spot for myself proper subsequent to him. However the cemetery was bombed. As a result of this isn’t a struggle. This can be a slaughterhouse. They’re barbarians.

However it’s okay, Ukraine will win — I’m certain.

Now we have help. I by no means believed in God, I’m a scientist. However I heard this prayer on the radio: “Father, shut the sky along with your palms from our enemies.” So, each night time earlier than going to mattress I say it.

I simply hope to reside till our victory.

Olha Mykhailivna

Olha Mykhailivna, 74, lives on her personal in a Kyiv condominium block. She hasn’t been exterior since July as a result of she is afraid of getting caught within the elevator if the facility goes off, which occurs often. She spent just a few months as a refugee in Moldova after the full-scale struggle began final February however got here again dwelling in the summertime.

Olha Mykhailivna hasn’t left her condominium in Kyiv since July.

Nightmare. It is only a nightmare.

I am half-Russian. My mom is Ukrainian and met my father in Berlin. He was a Russian from Chelyabinsk and went to Berlin with the Crimson Military. My mom was taken as labor to Germany, she was 17 or 18 years outdated.

I didn’t reside via World Struggle II, however I did reside via its penalties.

We lived as a household in Chelyabinsk. The whole lot was positive there, however my mom needed to return to Ukraine. When the mud settled, she mentioned, “Let’s go to my homeland. I wish to go to Ukraine.”

I used to be born in Chelyabinsk and went to high school there and life was superb. I got here right here to Ukraine and cried day-after-day. I used to be 9 years outdated. We got here to the village of Volodarka. I got here from Chelyabinsk with glorious grades in class. At the moment, when you did properly in class, your mother and father got tickets to the theater.

I got here right here and I used to be like a black sheep. In Volodarka, everybody spoke Ukrainian. There was no Russian college there.

They referred to as us katsaps (a derogatory title for Russians) and once they requested me to write down on the blackboard, everybody laughed. I didn’t perceive something, and I acquired dangerous grades at college.

“Nightmare. It is only a nightmare.”

Olha Mykhailivna

After I got here to Kyiv to review and work, I noticed that folks understood me once I spoke Russian and it was simpler for me. I used to be 17 years outdated and determined to adapt. I studied on the Institute of Soviet Commerce, then I began working — there have been a lot of jobs in Kyiv on the time, particularly for accountants.

My mom died just lately. She was 98 years outdated, and now I reside alone.

When the struggle in Ukraine began, we had rockets flying round and one home caught hearth. I am sitting right here on the balcony pondering — if I’m to die, I would like prompt demise, if I’m to be wounded, I would like it to be a small one. And there are missiles flying backwards and forwards.

However I am not afraid of something. I even used to shoot weapons. I referred to as the army enlistment workplace and requested them to present me a gun.

Maria Nyzhnyk

Maria Nyzhnyk, 95, dreamed of changing into a singer when she was a younger lady. She nonetheless enjoys singing and is composing songs about her life in a care dwelling east of Kyiv.

Maria Nyzhnyk lives in a retirement dwelling in Peremoha.

I’ve obtained medals for my work: I labored as a lathe operator on the identical plant in Kyiv for 40 years. I labored there all through the struggle. I needed to develop into a singer and a journalist, however due to World Struggle II, all of it turned out otherwise.

However I’m nonetheless writing songs and singing them. Though my listening to isn’t so good now.

I might by no means have imagined there could be one other struggle. Perhaps Putin isn’t even alive anymore, possibly somebody is there as a substitute of him, going in opposition to Ukraine.

I acquired married in 1949. My mother advised me: “You’re already 20, how for much longer are you going to remain a maiden? Drop every little thing and begin a household already. There is a boy going after you!” and I mentioned, “Let him go after me for slightly longer.”

However then he and his mom satisfied me to get married. He was a sailor, he served within the Caspian Sea, de-mining the ocean after the struggle. He was a superb man. As soon as I sewed swimming trunks for him, however I didn’t put any belt in them. He went to the ocean and he misplaced them!

I cherished him, however I couldn’t save him. He died of most cancers when he was 74.

We had three youngsters. Two ladies and a son. Just one is left now. The boy went fishing and by no means got here again. The elder daughter has handed away.

My youthful daughter was born disabled. She was born all twisted, however she had surgical procedures to deal with her situation. She was advised she would not have the ability to give beginning, however she mentioned “what sort of life it is going to be if I am unable to give beginning. I need a son or a daughter. Whenever you die I wish to have somebody to assist me.” And she or he did give beginning. And now she’s all good and fairly. So now I’ve a granddaughter and a great-grandson!

This story was made attainable due to the assistance of Yulia Guliaeva and Yulia Gulevych from Women’s Aid International, Alexander Kolesnikov from Helping Hand, Victor Popovich from the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, Iryna Lutai from Nasha Peremoga, Eli Buzunov from JDC and Olesya Koryagina.

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