Day 17: “When they hear the boom, boom, boom of the bombs, people run to the border…but some of us just want to stay at home.”
Olga is organising shelter for internally displaced families in western Ukraine. She has mobilised local support from her fellow villagers to transform the premises, formerly offices, into homes. They are helping to supply and install washing machines, microwaves, showers, as well as play areas for children. Olga knows what it’s like to flee as a family with children. She made that journey after Russia invaded her home in Donetsk in 2014. She is struggling to pay for the additional electricity costs. Read her other blogs here: view Olga’s Chronicles.
Please help Olga to help others and donate to her Go Fund Me.
12th March 2022
Below is a conversation between Olga and Marie Gillespie that took place on Saturday 12th March. It chronicles Olga’s life during this horrific war.
M: Hi Olga, how are you and your family and village?
O: We are fine, OK – just OK.
M: I was so upset to hear that they had been shelling Ivano-Frankivsk.
O: Yes, several bombs attacked our civic airport. I woke up to the sound of shelling that seemed so close I thought it had hit my house, as we felt like the earth and house shaking beneath our feet. It was early in the morning at 7 when people sleep, that’s why a lot of people awoke to panic and of course it is shocking. This time nobody died, everybody is OK.
M: Last week when we were talking, you were saying, probably we’re in the safest place and this is the problem isn’t it, all your expectations and assumptions blown apart.
O: You know, the Ukrainian military and government monitor Russian military operations and what I know is so far from them, and they say that when the Russians lose the power in the target areas, they try to make people panic in other areas that people think are safe, so that’s why they put some bombs here and in other cities. Some say the Russians are desperate because they want to induce fear and panic, but we are hopeful we can get rid of the Russians
M: Yes, how optimistic do you feel this week on day 17?
O: I believe that after the war we will build everything again anew, but the most important thing now is to finish this war and the get rid of those Russian forces from our country. Maybe it will take f100 years even more just to be free from them and even their mentality.
I read the political analyses and you know, there are some levels in this war – the first was when they wanted to take Kiev in 2-3 days but they couldn’t. So now it’s the next level and the Russians have lost a lot of power, a lot of machines, tanks. They lost more than 12,000 people on the Russian side. They’re not strong like before.
M: So where do you get the figure of 12,000?
O: Our soldiers know, and they count, they know how many people should be inside tanks in military convoys and they know – we get information from official sites. So, level 2 is: they can’t take Kiev so they attack places further away. They are showing the Ukrainian people that the Russian army is not strong, that Russia is like a fake country – a very big fake. Now you see a lot of sanctions, but you know people say ah it’s nothing, everything will be OK, but like how are you OK? people can’t see anything around them
M: Russians who support Putin, it’s like they live in an alternative reality.
O: Yes, now it’s an alternative reality. I can’t even explain it, I feel like we should shut them out, close them off like North Korea, you understand me? Just let them solve their problems themselves because you see what they do, they just kill people just for nothing.
M: Last week you mentioned 14,000 internally displaced people came to Ivano or passed through – how are you and your villagers getting along with supporting them and building shelters?
O: We can’t get any accurate figure of course, last few days one figure shared was 38,000 people came to or came through Ivano. They sleep here and then go Poland – every day, every day thousands of people come to this area. We can count only those people who come and do registration. If people don’t want to do registration and they go somewhere we can’t count them.
We have had several families who came just for one night and then they go to the border – they don’t stay – yeah especially yesterday, when they hear the Boom! Boom! Boom! of the bombs they just flee to the border, because they are afraid. I understand them. But one family is still living in our shelter.
Today one woman from UNICEF asked me to host one family tomorrow. I want to give our rooms for families – you know, after every stay over, we have to wash everything, clean everything. I also have a place for children to play. Children need to play and be safe.
M: Are you or is anyone worried about the pandemic and keeping safe from Covid?
O: You know, we have a joke in Ukraine about Covid that goes: “Guys, is there some news about COVID? I just to rest my brain!“ [She laughs]. Covid is a memory. Easier to deal with than the war. They don’t care at all about Covid. Nobody even talks about it. There is no Covid now, we are more worried about paying for electricity
M: Is electricity in Ukraine very expensive?
O: Oh yes, very expensive especially for the shelters. Water, heating, light, washing machine, microwave, ovens, kettle. I am afraid that we will not be able to pay for the electricity to run the shelters. I can’t take money from the people we are sheltering because they have nothing and what they have they will need for the journey.
M: Can you tell us about the shelter?
O: It’s a special community centre for village people that I helped to set up. For example, there are after school clubs for children and young people. I wanted them to be able study English, drawing, singing, dancing, different activities. We have the second floor for community activities and social enterprises – like my print shop. Before, the three rooms were offices and there was one large communal room where we hosted activities.
When the war started, I went to the owner of this building. I know him well, he is a very good man. I asked him if he would allow us to set up shelters for families and he said yes. He is giving us the second floor rent-free – it is great but he can’t pay the heating and we need to cook.
So we have converted the second floor into three shelters for families and one big room for cooking and dining and a play area for children and we will be installing a shower this week. We will provide shelter for three families of up to six people in one room.
You know for me it’s important. The head of our village said to me when I started doing this shelter, he said: You know it’s on you – you are responsible for all those people – not just financially – that’s a big thing, so why are you doing that? We have government shelters.
I told him I want to organise something good for the people fleeing the war as I know what it’s like for these families. Many of them come from my village in Donbas, they are neighbours or friends. A family has children. They want privacy. People are stressed. People want to close the door and rest. That’s why I want to organise shelters. I want them be nice for families.
I have a lot of support from people from our village here. People come to my shelter and ask me, how we can help you today? Yesterday one man called me and said “I have a washing machine. It’s very good, so we just need somebody to come and transport it to you, okay?” So I called another person and said, “Do you have a car? Can you go there and collect the washing machine?” He said OK. Then today I called a third person: “Can you install it”
I’m just organising things. Like, I’m a manager and all the villagers are very good at practical support but it’s difficult to raise the money to pay for the electricity from people now because they also have no jobs now in the war and no money.
M: Let’s just keep hoping and praying we will get there.
O: We have to be strong and wait and believe in our army, in all our people, everything will be OK for Ukraine. Take care, all the best to you, speak to you tomorrow or text, bye…
If you want to help, you can go to these links to get more information:
Donate to help Olga: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-olga-help-internally-displaced-families
Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal: https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-humanitarian-appeal
How you can help from the UK by donating cash and supplies: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2022/mar/05/ukraine-crisis-how-you-can-help-donating-cash-supplies
Contact: [email protected]