As usual, the phone rang when least expected — we were preparing to sleep.
“It’s urgent. There are many children, and they are very hungry. Can we…?” the volunteer who is taking people out from the hottest spots is speaking.
“Of course, you can. We are always ready to welcome and give shelter…”
I switch on the oven and put in four kilos of chicken legs (looks like my husband knew we would need a lot of them). I take an enormous pot for the soup and the porridge. I know the appetite of those who spent months in basements.
There is a knocking at the door in an hour. A lot of children come in. I look for mommies, but all I see are thin, tired, exhausted children. Two of them are carrying babies. I don’t want to believe that those thin girls are adult mothers because there’s nothing but skin and bones. And a broad smile. There are eight adults and a bunch of kids.
We settle them in the rooms, in the corridors.
While kids are running to the rooms, to the bathroom, to the toilet, we are taking care of the food.
It is impossible to tell every woman’s story, so I will tell only one.
There is a mommy with six kids and two grandpas, one of them is very old.
“The ones without cars are in the worst situation, for they can not leave. They have to wait for evacuation, stay in line, and wait for the opportunity. And while you’re waiting, those bastards are plotting tortures. And their fantasy is really sick. I don’t have words to describe their cruelties.” The grandpa's voice is trembling, his hands are shaking, and there are tears in his eyes.
“They made kids orphans. They have done so many terrible things. Thousands of families are separated, and tens of thousands of children are crying because of them…”
The thin woman is embracing her baby.
“Three of the children are mine, and the other three are my nephews. My sister and her husband are buried under the debris of the house. At that moment, my nephews were visiting us, so they just live with me now. One boy is quite injured — he has bruises and scratches, and his nose is broken. He helped to rescue his parents from under the debris. They couldn’t be rescued in time, so the remains of the house fell on the boy.
Three more kids. Two of them are also injured severely — they have bruises and internal bleeding. One has a bandage on his head — saving themselves from the shelling, the brothers were jumping into the cellar.
Under occupation, they have witnessed death, sorrow, and torture. And hunger. That is why no sooner had they been seated at the table when they started to devour the food.
“Meat, meat. I was dying to eat it,” the kid is putting the plate closer to himself and starts crying. “But they have taken away everything — our hens, our potatoes. And we’d been feeding those hens, we’d been helping mom to dig out those potatoes. But they have just taken everything. And there was nothing to eat…”
Now not only the boy is crying, but also I am, so are my friend, who is helping me, and everybody else.
Meanwhile, my husband is helping volunteers with cars, refilling, and accommodation. After this family had eaten, another one will come, and I will be listening to new stories and crying once again. Because it hurts for all of them. And I want everything to stop, children not to witness the war and not to experience the famine, not to leave their parents under debris and not to jump into the cellar, knowing they’ll hurt themselves, — but they realize that life is more important.
I want this to end. I want russia to end and peace to come.
I will not reread this text and correct my mistakes.
I just quickly wrote and shared it. That’s why I know there are some mistakes, but the story is not about them — it is about the pain of every single person and Ukraine in general. I just want the entire world to know the stories of those people. And I want those who are pretending that it is far away from them, try to imagine their children in the same conditions as these. And I want those who are thinking that russians have nothing to do with that to remind themselves that silence is a sign of agreement with the situation…
16 July 1:34 pm
Ukrainian Text by Andriy and Liudmyla Kozubenko. Translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Aug 22, 2022