Today is the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal, unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. To mark the occasion, Kyiv Post has collected 17 stories to try and convey the breadth and scale of the loss caused to Ukrainians caused by the Kremlin’s aggression.

 

I look at my passport cover. It is already worn, it doesn’t look good. The best preserved is the painted flag of Ukraine, which barely glows in yellow-blue color. A few years ago, I was thinking about buying a new cover. But not now, because this cover is a connection with my hometown of Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region.

I bought the cover in 2010, when I applied for my passport. I just knew that the design had to have the Ukrainian flag and the inscription "Ukraine." At that time, at the age of 16, I realized that I was a Ukrainian from Severodonetsk. And there were many such teenagers and adults in the city and in our region, despite Russian propaganda that they were supposedly “waiting” for Russia.

Maryna's Ukrainian passport.

We saw our future in Ukraine, but the Russian Federation had other plans. I almost lost my home for the first time in 2014, when the Russians occupied part of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. They tried to seize Severodonetsk then, but the Ukrainian army destroyed their intentions. For the next eight years, I could still go home to visit my parents.

But then the year 2022 was upon us. We had been told since January that Russia was preparing something - a huge war. I was among those who did not believe in it. I believed that it was complete stupidity to start a war against the largest country in Europe. Therefore, on Feb. 22, I went home by train for my mother's birthday.

Feb. 23 was my last peaceful day in Severodonetsk. It was a warm, sunny day and I was walking around the city with my mother. We made plans for Feb. 24, not even imagining that the most important plan from the next day would simply be to survive.

The Russians approached my city quite quickly. They began to destroy it from the third day of the war. We began to get used to new realities. We ate little by little so that we would have enough food supplies, because the shops were only open for a few hours. We prayed not to get sick, because the pharmacies were closed. We did not sleep during the night nor during the day. We had to take turns and listen to see if Russian shells were flying in our direction, although now I understand that we would not be able to save ourselves.

I was with my mother and father in our apartment. It gave me energy and strength, although I really missed my husband, who remained in Kyiv. At that time, I didn’t know if I would even see him again, or if I would end up under Russian occupation.

I drove from Severodonetsk under shelling. My parents forced me to go because they were worried about me. I remember looking at them and thinking that I was afraid of losing them. We heard the news about how the Russians were brutally killing entire families, children and adults in Mariupol, Bucha and Izyum. There was a real fear of becoming part of these tragedies.

I cried, - I cried a lot and hugged my mother before leaving. I felt that the worst was still ahead. And so it happened. On March 22, my parents came under heavy fire from the Russians. They were standing in line at the supermarket to buy some groceries and found themselves in what could only be described as hell. After the shelling, there was blood everywhere -  a woman was wounded and torn to pieces. My parents miraculously survived. A miracle.

In a few weeks, my mother came to me. She couldn't stand another shell landing near our house. When I hugged her again, I was happy. Despite the war, we were back together.

Dad stayed in Severodonetsk. He believed that it would soon end, and the Russians would flee. But at the end of May, Russian troops entered the city, street battles began, and about 80 percent of the city was destroyed. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian army had to retreat. Our family, along with our destiny felt as though it was broken.

Dad is now under occupation and mom is with me in Ukraine. It is not clear when we will all be together again.

I look at the cover of my passport. It reminds me of my Severodonetsk. Ukrainian Severodonetsk. Small, comfortable, convenient and native. My home, which inspired me, which gave me strength and which soothed me, is now gone. Only memories remain. And I'm really afraid that even in a year my home will still be just a memory...




Comments ( 1)

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Stanisław
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Z bezpiecznej oddali, bo z Polski, mogłem jedynie śledzić i namawiać Marynę i jej rodziców do wyjazdu z Siewierodoniecka. Zapraszałem do Polski, ale ważniejsze dla niej było pozostać w Ukrainie i walczyć. Dobrze, że nie musiała walczyć z bronią w ręku. Słowo pisane też ma ogromne znaczenie w czasie wojny.

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