As soon as the war broke out, I knew we had to leave Kyiv immediately.
I grabbed one small bag, my son Max, and my two cats and drove to the smaller city Kremenchuk where my parents live. Not long after, my mom began to have heart problems because of all the stress, so again I packed up the car, this time driving her and Max out of the country.
We drove through Romania and Moldova, Slovakia and finally found accommodation in Warsaw. Looking back, the memories are foggy—I was only concerned about protecting my son and mother.
I’m glad I was able to leave, but now I am so sad when I think about the little personal things: the keepsakes and photos I left behind. One photo I remember is that of my grandmother’s wedding—it’s old and faded but you can make out their faces and the traditional flower crown she is wearing. They are all very thin because of a food shortage in Ukraine.
My grandmother had a hard life—she is Lithuanian, and because of that, the Soviets moved her and her parents by force to Kazakhstan, where her father was kidnapped and put in prison. Her mother took her and two other children and joined family in Ukraine, but it was during the famine when the Soviets withheld food from Ukrainians. My grandmother survived but her baby sister didn’t. Despite all this, her wedding was a time of joy, and the photo has always reminded me of her strength.