“War is the most terrible thing in the world.” Polina, a 19-year-old student from Ukraine, left Ukraine on the first day of the Russian invasion. Follow her steps, the journey to uncertain future starts here.
Story by People in Need, a Czech NGO and a long-standing humanitarian partner of the EU in Ukraine. With EU humanitarian funding, People in Need has supported hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in eastern Ukraine since 2014, by providing safe drinking water, sanitation, cash assistance, and psychosocial support. Starting from 2017, the EU extended its funding to the ACCESS Consortium led by People in Need.
"I woke up early in the morning because of the loud noise of explosions. My mum asked my sister and me to calm down, take only the most vital things and pack quickly. We had to leave immediately. We live on the 8th floor of a 30-storey building, so it was unsafe to stay. We had to get to the ground floor, but using the elevator was risky, so we took the stairs. It seemed like ages going down. It was terrifying. I was scared. I had the feeling that something terrible was coming. Unfortunately, I was not wrong.”
“We left our building and got into our car. So many neighbours were also running to their cars with pets, suitcases, and other stuff. It was awful. Nobody believed that Kyiv would be under attack. But it happened. We had to leave and get to safety. I didn’t want to leave my home. I hope to come back.”
“While we were on the way, we saw lots of people in the streets. It was a big mess, and they didn’t know what to do or where to go. Many cars were trying to escape Kyiv, and we spent much time in the traffic jam. It was terrible to see panicking, desperate people and realise that there is great uncertainty ahead.”
“Finally, we arrived at a hostel in Lviv. It took us 2 days to cover the 550 km from Kyiv to Lviv. We had to stop during the nights as it was dangerous to continue in the dark. Besides, checkpoints were installed very quickly in different regions, which slowed down the traffic. At first, it was challenging to find accommodation, but we were lucky to get a room in a hostel with a good bomb shelter, which I hoped wouldn’t be needed. But I was wrong.”
“Though there have been no air attacks on Lviv so far, the air sirens are an everyday reality. We know well what we should do in case of sirens, how to get to the bomb shelter, when it is possible to go out and what basic items we should always keep with us. After several days, I’m used to going to the bomb shelter. My small sister is terrified when she hears the sirens, she takes her things, and rushes to the shelter, hoping that there will be no rockets reaching us... which was, unfortunately, the case in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Volnovakha, Zaporizhzhia, and many other cities in Ukraine. War is the most terrible thing in the world.”