Bagajele abandonului

“I work for a large pharmaceutical company. On February 23 we had a conference in Kyiv attended by plastic surgeons from all over Ukraine. It was a genuinely nice meeting. We took a lot of pictures, everyone was dressed so smartly. We all talked about how war was a possibility, but none of us thought it would really happen.

When I woke up and heard the sound of sirens, I told my husband to wake up because someone was bombing us, but he told me it was a bad dream. But then there was a second loud sound, he heard it and the children heard it. We got up and didn’t know what to do. Grab some stuff and run, but where? I said we had to pack the essentials and head to the western Ukraine. But my husband told me that everyone would be doing just that. A colleague of mine got into his car at 6 a.m. and didn’t get over the city line until nighttime due to heavy traffic.

We decided not to remain in the apartment building, because it was too tall, but to move instead to a country house near Kyiv, which was smaller. My husband’s reaction to stress was an issue. I am more proactive, but I always say about him that his reactions are almost as those of a giraffe, he looks at things and two days later he may decide on something. So, in that situation, he looked at me and said whatever I say we should do, we’ll do it.

During the night, when we were driving to that country house near Kyiv, I saw a lot of tanks and that gave me a huge scare. The next night I woke up and it became very clear to me that we couldn’t stay there. Everyone said I was crazy. I said we had to leave immediately. I drove all night. After we left, they said on the news that area had been blocked off by the army. Later my husband told me that he would always trust me because I have this intuition.

After arriving in western Ukraine, I decided to take my two boys, aged 14 and 12, and travel to Romania. The first few months were exceedingly difficult because I felt like my life was put on hold. What is to be done, how to do it? I came to realize that in life we really don’t need that many things.

The American company I was working for held a meeting a month before the war had started and they told us: look, there can be a war, that is why you have to be prepared and have some cash, a full tank of gas and a small luggage packed and ready. And they even sent us a list of its contents. So, two weeks before the war, I sat down with my husband and told him that we needed to prepare a plan A and a plan B. I put all my papers in one place and filled my car tank with gas. That helped me a great deal, because on the first day, a lot of people couldn’t leave anywhere because they had no gas.

I also had a small bag ready, with thermal clothing, shoes, underwear, flashlight, batteries, medicine, stuff like that. When we left, I also grabbed a thermos and some food. We all took our laptops. I told my boys that we should only pack what we really needed.

I am at peace with my choice to come to Bucharest because the mentality of Romanians is remarkably similar to that of Ukrainians. Even my sons, who are teenagers, and, like all teenagers, they hate everything, even they like it here.”

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