It’s the second time I’ve had to leave everything behind and flee. I am a 27-year-old designer and I live in the city of Vishhorod in the Kyiv region. I was born in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, in an area some people now call the Donetsk People’s Republic.
In 2014, I didn’t pay much attention to the news about the war. I didn’t think anything could happen to me. Then war broke out; a shell hit our house. Fortunately, none of us was home.
On the morning of February 24, 2022, I was woken up early by an explosion. This time, I was ready to go. I had been alarmed by the rumours according to which the legislation would be changed, so that women could be recruited for military service. A month before the invasion, I talked to my relatives about a possible departure, in case things got worse. I had already checked my papers and put them in a safe place.
The roar of the explosion made me tremble. I lived on the 20th floor and the noise was very loud. We started calling our relatives to see if they were okay. It was not well into the daylight, but I could still see from the window several cars leaving the residential complex on their way to Kyiv.
We were called by someone from work, and we were told that the war had begun and we needed to find a safe place. We wanted to go to Bucha, where my mother and brother lived with his family. We tried for two hours to find a taxi to get us there. There were roadblocks in Kyiv, so we had to go through Hostomel, which was already covered in smoke from the bombing. We did not manage to leave Bucha until the next morning. We didn’t sleep that night. We took refuge in the bathroom during the explosions, because we had no shelter near the house.
In the morning we set off again: two days of driving, without stopping and without sleep, seven passengers, including two children. We tried to get around the big cities and use the less crowded routes. We had issues with the car twice, and in retrospect, I understand that God used these issues to change our route.
We intended to go through the city of Bar, but we had to stop at a gas station to refuel, and from that moment on, the headlights stopped working. I had to cut the wires and connect them manually, during which time we received a phone call and were warned to avoid the city of Bar—the congestion had become very intense because the authorities were being very careful to check those passing through the city.
The next day, we ran out of fuel after passing Kamianets-Podilskyi. We pushed the car to the first gas station, but there was no way to start it after refuelling. The battery had died. However, we managed to repair the headlights with the help of a friend who gave us instructions over the phone. He was also heading to Chernivtsi.
However, it was impossible to start the car, so our friend came after us and brought us a battery. That was the moment when we decided to change the route again, detouring through the Ternopil region, in order to avoid a traffic jam of a few kilometres, which would have extended our journey to Chernivtsi by at least one more night.
In Chernivtsi, we were welcomed by a wonderful family, and my brother decided to stay there for a while with his family. We decided to cross the border into Romania. Our host from Chernivtsi brought us to Porubne and gave us the number of a young Adventist who would help us find accommodation at a church in Romania.
The waiting time at customs was short, only 40 minutes, but we didn’t know where we would go after that. It was a miracle how easily everything was resolved. We were directed to the Coşna Youth Centre of the Adventist Church in Romania.
We were prepared to accept any conditions, but the way our needs were met in this place and the fact that we were treated as if we were part of a large family filled us with such gratitude, we cannot put it into words. God bless the owners of this place!
Our next destination is Poland, where we hope to find a job, but our thoughts and prayers go home, where our relatives and friends have stayed. Our grandmother is in Kramatorsk, and other relatives and friends are spread all over Ukraine.
It is hard to really rebuild our lives while our loved ones remained in Ukraine in the middle of the war. We pray that this conflict will end soon and that we will find all those we left behind in safety.
Elena Stoica wrote this first person account for ST Network. A version of this article first appeared on their website and is republished with permission.