“Remember Also Me: A Mosaic of Interviews from Ukraine, [part two]” by Laura Swart

School in Boyarka, Ukraine, by Lesya K. (The building across from the school was blown up.)

This is the second of a series of interviews about the war in Ukraine, which began February 24, 2022, with the Russian invasion. Laura Swart interviewed doctors, nurses, hospital patients, security personnel, humanitarian workers, and pastors. The speakers are not identified for security reasons.

Part Two. In the Midst of War 

Two months ago in Vinnytsia I went to my friend’s house to play computer games, watch some videos on YouTube, to spend time together. But there was a curfew, and I didn’t want to appear on the streets because it’s prohibited to walk during the curfew. So I decided to spend the night at my friend’s. I heard the air raid at 3am, and after forty minutes I heard a powerful missile, a powerful, powerful missile strike. It was so loud that I was a little bit shocked. I quickly got up and yelled, Get up, get up, get up! We are under attack! We are under bombardment! My friend, his father, and I ran into the basement, and there were two or three missile strikes, and it was so loud that I was really shocked. It was really scary for us. And I understood at that moment what it means, what you feel, when a missile lands on the ground.

Every time I hear an air raid now, I don’t feel very scared, but in the bottom of my soul, I understand that there is still the probability that it could be a missile strike. After three months, after each air raid, the probability of being bombarded still exists.

I teach third grade. A missile blew up a factory behind the school, but the school is safe.

Two weeks or maybe three weeks ago, two bombs came down on Lviv. Photos of the explosions were posted to the internet. And lots of people started to write comments. Very good, Russian military, you are good! You did a good job! But that’s not enough. Please kill all people in Lviv. All people in Lviv must die. They wrote this on the internet, and people can see this because it was in the Russian news. And it was a shock for us. Because we didn’t do anything bad in our country. We live in our country and we don’t touch anybody. And I don’t understand why they decided to start this war. I don’t understand. And all of my friends also don’t understand.

This photo and those below: Irpin, Ukraine by Victor G.

One thing that I’ve learned through this experience is the amount of support, unity, and empathy people received during this war and how they gathered together and they are there for each other. I wish people could do that in peaceful times—that we didn’t need this war to learn that.

My friend and I stay together because it is like, safer, for us, I think. I was in a dormitory alone. And she was in her apartment. So we decided to live together.

I am really scared about the situation in eastern Ukraine right now because the Russians, unfortunately, they have had some success in going further into our territory, because they have more equipment, more tanks, and we have lack it. So that’s why it’s really, really, really important for us to obtain this equipment, these missiles, these tanks, these heavy weapons. Because right now, the main problem for the Ukrainian army is weapons.

The only member of my family who is alive is my sister. I lost the connection with my sister. I cannot find my sister.

I live in the west of our country, and it’s safe. But maybe you heard about Mariupol, a city located in the east of our country. Mariupol is a major port city and a key target for Russia because it seeks to establish a land road to the Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. Maybe you know about this. And this city has is in the worst situation in Ukraine. All the buildings were destroyed. And under each house lie a dead woman and a dead man and dead little children. Russian soldiers don’t spare anyone.

In Mariupol, pro-Russian forces are trying to convince Ukrainians that their city was destroyed by the armed forces of Ukraine. If Ukrainians want to receive money (so they won’t die of hunger), they must write a declaration stating that their house was destroyed by the Ukrainian army

We have soldiers from Belarus, from Georgia, from Poland, Slovakia, Great Britain, even a little bit from America. They have a desire to help Ukrainian soldiers fight against Russia. And they do it on a volunteer basis. And moreover, beginning from the Russian invasion, 500,000 Ukrainians have returned to Ukraine from abroad. Eighty percent of them are men. Men. They want to fight, defend their country.

I told my wife I was opposed to leaving Vinnytsia. She said, What happens to you, happens to me.

Western Ukraine is more European, east is more Russian—and they’ve always said, Russia! We love Russia! Russia is the best! But when the war started, they travelled 1000 kilometers to come west. If Russia is so wonderful, why not go there?

In Odesa, one thousand people waiting in line since dawn for food.

We are giving multicookers to refugee families. You plug them in, and they cook anything.

My family never complains, for example, about low salaries or about some social injustice that sometimes can occur, because we understand that it’s typical of any country, and that’s why we have never thought about moving to some other country in Europe or, moreover, the United States.

My little sister, she’s 16 years old. She’s scared to be alone at home because of all the air alarms.

This is a worldwide mobilization against evil. From the fishermen making camouflaged nets to the pickup trucks bringing food across borders.

I’ve noticed one thing: the nearer a country is to Ukraine, the more it supports Ukraine. The further away a country is from Ukraine, the less it supports it. For example, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia. They rejected Russia’s oil. Finland, Sweden. They rejected it. But Macron, President French Republic, declared, Do not humiliate Russia. I don’t know why so many European leaders are afraid of Russia.

I understand that we are just a small part of a big job. Every one of us, and everyone who makes a donation or gives some money to support us, is a small part of a great big, big, big, job.  

This war will impact the world. Food can’t get out of country; long lines of trucks are filled with perishable food. Some of it will be saved; most will be lost.

When people started coming back home to Kyiv, they were shocked because a lot of bodies were lying on the streets, some with their hands bound, some with gunshot wounds in their heads. Five hundred bodies have been collected. A lot of people just went missing. Russia’s military robbed houses and stole everything they could steal: food, jewelry, refrigerators, computers, clothes, carpets.

I’m good today. But yesterday, we had bombs in Lviv and eight people were killed. Also, one child was injured; he lost his finger. This child, he immigrated from Kharkiv with his mom. We have had bombs in Lviv before, but it was only military buildings. Yesterday it was houses and a tire shop. Eight were killed. Eight people from twenty-five to forty-five years old. And also we have eleven people who are in hospital now. For three of them, conditions are very severe. These people just were at work in the morning.

We were in the bunker and the ground was bouncing up and down like a volcano had hit.

I gave my apartment in Vinnytsia  to a displaced family, so now I don’t have a home. I live with my relatives.

Kids get anxiety when the walls are shaking.

Of course, you have these cramped-up thoughts like, What if something happens and I don’t see these people ever again?

We laugh because if we stop laughing, we will cry.


Laura Swart is a novelist, poet, and playwright. She has taught creative and critical writing to adults for over thirty years, encouraging students to find and raise their writing voices. Her humanitarian work around the world—most recently in Ethiopia and Ukraine—have shaped her thinking, her teaching, and her writing.

From Laura Swart: My profound thanks go to the men and women who shared their lives and their stories with me. Thank you also to those who translated during interviews. Finally, Borys Sydoruk, chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation, spent several hours teaching me about all things Ukraine. Thank you.

If you would like to support Ukrainians who are helping Ukrainians, consider donating to Dental Hope, which provides free dental work to victims of the war throughout Ukraine. 

[These interviews were further edited and arranged by ACM‘s S.L. Wisenberg. Part three, “War Medicine,” will appear next Thursday.]