‘If everyone leaves, there is no one left to fight. Ukraine needs me here’: One woman on her decision to stay in Kyiv with her 9-year-old daughter

The big emotion I am feeling right now is anger. I am very angry. My own wish is for Russia to please leave us alone, because we will fight. We are Ukrainians. Even people who speak Russian here in places like Kharkiv and Mariupol, take to the streets with a Ukrainian flag. 

It’s like we are in real adult life, but we are waiting for someone to come and save us. But there is no one. We have to do it ourselves. We didn’t want this war. We didn’t do anything bad to Russia or Russian people. But Russia is imposing this so-called “peace” on us. 

We had peace before this invasion. Now they are imposing themselves on us. It’s what I would call harassment. It is very simple to understand. Take the metaphor of a woman who was once in a relationship. She leaves and files for divorce saying you can be happy and I’ll be happy. But the other party says, “NO, you won’t leave because I don’t recognise your free will”. 

This is a war between two different sets of human values. The very simple message we all have is: This is Ukraine. It has its own language, its culture, its history and this is what we want. We never wanted to be part of Russia. 

Russians have relatives here, they have mothers, they have sisters and cousins. Those mothers, sisters and cousins, give them a ring and say “you are killing us, you’re killing civilians” and they don’t want to hear anything about it. They think we’re all on drugs. 

Sometimes I ask my friends: “how have we managed to stay sane in this new reality?” I was already so tired after two years of being in a pandemic. I was burnt out. I had lost my business, and was just dragging myself through each day and planning a summer vacation. And then here comes the war. OK, we’ll just have to somehow carry on. 

What would it take for me to leave Kyiv is the question I have been asking myself the past week. I have some bags packed and have been thinking about my plan B and C. The thing with leaving Kyiv is, it’s a very important decision. 

You’re not safe here but you have no guarantee that you won’t be shot in the middle of the road while trying to get out. That is a difficult question for me right now. The whole thing feels like a movie to me. Suddenly, you are a character in a film that you never choose to be in. I hope for a miracle, because if this is a movie or a fairy tale then there should be a happy ending for us at the end. 

My biggest concern is that my daughter stays alive, because I can see how talented she is. She likes to draw (she’s been drawing Putin, actually) and I see her as a very strong Ukrainian citizen of the future. She has all the skills and talents to help our Ukraine become a fulfilled and prosperous country, as we are going to have to rebuild from scratch after this. 

I don’t know what it will take to help the situation. I am just an ordinary woman. I dreamt of a dress and wanted to take my daughter around the world. I am not in a position to solve it but I trust the president of Ukraine and I trust the Ukrainian army, and I trust the allies and partners in the world who have the experience. I am sure they can find a way out. 

The most difficult thing for me is this state of not being able to do anything. Even though you know what you believe is true – that we’re an independent country – the price we are paying is way too high. 

One thing I know is that we cannot surrender, because this is not about peace. If we surrender, we’ll be destroyed.