Alla Denisova-Put

Bagajele abandonului

“We used to throw a lot of parties with our friends. In February we had such a party. I knew war was a possibility, but I didn’t think it would really happen.

A few days before the war, my friend Alyona called me and told me it was going to happen. I told her it wasn’t true, it couldn’t happen. I work in a bank, the Human Resources department. The day the war started, I got up at 5 to get ready for work. And I got a phone call from my children’s godfather, who is with the military, who told me that the war had begun. Just when I saw it was him calling me, I knew something bad was going on.

We spent most of the day at home, but after the sirens started going off, we realized we couldn’t stay there because there was no basement in our apartment building. So, we decided to go to our good friends’ who had a basement with lights and everything. It took us about an hour to get there, and the drive was awful. The children would squeeze our hands every time the sirens went off.

When we left home, I told each of them to take only one bag or backpack. And they asked me what to pack. I didn’t know what to tell them, I couldn’t think straight. My husband embraced me and told me I needed to pull myself together and that we needed to pack food, water, and a few things. I took my and my kids’ papers, my laptop, warm clothes for the children. They also packed a few toys. My little girl, Tanya, told me there was a certain toy she just could not leave there. I tried explaining to her that the plush toy was too big, but she said she had to take it. They also packed a toy for me, something my husband gave me as a present. I grabbed the phone chargers and we left.

We spent four nights at our friends’ house in Kyiv, sleeping on the floor, on mattresses. At one point our friends’ cat, who was walking among the mattresses, dropped to the ground and turned its ears back, but we couldn’t hear anything. Within five seconds, the house shook violently. I saw my whole life flash before me just then, and I told my husband that we had to leave Kyiv.

We went to the railway station with our friends, who also have four children, to take a train. On the way there I saw lots of tanks, windows shattered, buildings destroyed. At the railway station I couldn’t figure out which train was going where, because there was no timetable. We knew our intention was to head west. We boarded a train, which was very crowded. The train conductor made an announcement we would be travelling with lights off and that we had to pull down the blinds on the windows. At one point, we heard something big coming towards us. It only lasted 2-3 seconds, but those seconds felt like ten minutes. I could tell it was flying towards us because the noise was getting louder. I can’t explain how I felt, I didn’t know if we would live through it or not. The missile flew over the train, I looked out the window and saw it explode a few hundred meters away. In those moments, everyone was holding their breath. I still can’t forget the fear in my children’s eyes. Normally the train trip to Lviv takes four and a half hours, that day it took eleven and a half hours.

I spent about two months in Poland. I also managed to bring over my daughter’s godmother who lived in Irpin. At one point, I found out that my husband was going to Harkiv to join the fight and I knew he didn’t have a bulletproof vest. So, I raised money and bought four vests, which I then smuggled into Ukraine. Now my husband, who is the best sniper in his battalion, is training somewhere in northern Ukraine. Their camp is in woodlands some place, and I don’t know where he’ll be sent next.

When we return to Ukraine, we will be different people. And with some of our friends in Ukraine, we will have to start from scratch. Because we tried talking to them, but they think we’re on some kind of vacation.”

Story collected by Bogdan Dincă for the Suitcases of Abandonment campaign. Project funded by CARE through SERA Romania, Care France and FONPC.

Last Day of Peace, First Night of War is an interactive digital installation, part of the Museum of Abandonment, a digital wall of images showing the last days of peace collected from mobile phones.