A Trap | Davit Apakidze01.09.2022 | 8 Min to read
(These conversations with Ukrainian citizens were recorded in April and May 2022)
Right now, I’m living in a reality where people are dying everyday… and yes, I must face this fact again every day.
If you’re looking for anything fluffy, you’d better text a panda.
ZSU (Armed Forces of Ukraine)
Our army consists of two units: the regular army and the volunteers. We have this inside joke in our detachment that should we ever need an anti-aircraft system, the volunteers will get us one within an hour, and they might as well bring us a ham sandwich while they’re at it.
We’re all fighting this together—both those inside and outside of the country. Most refugees are already employed. They’re sending remittances and strengthening the country’s economy.
When the war broke out, my husband was called into his unit. I also went to the military commissariat to sign up as a volunteer. And they would’ve sent me off, but first I had to drive our dog to my parents in Zaporizhzhia. On my way back, I found myself out past curfew. The curfew starts on Friday evening and lasts until Monday morning, meaning that you have to find shelter and hide wherever you are at that moment. I ended up spending over a day with total strangers. There were many others like me. There was this one granny, I remember, who lived in the same building and would invite us over for dinner. She would first dole out some borsch and then treat us with some candies.
For me, there are two different types of Ukraine since 2014: one is free and beautiful, with a blossoming startup culture, open galleries, and clubs that never stayed quiet… And in the second Ukraine, just like in the free one, children grow up and people go to work, except amid air raids.
A few days ago, our detachment arrived in Kyiv. I saw women and children in line for groceries. Then suddenly an air-raid siren went off, and that’s when I realized that free Ukraine no longer existed… but today we have a chance to reclaim our freedom. We’ve been looking the enemy in the eye for far too long.
You just can’t talk to or be friends with Russia. I have a question for Georgia. Why do you let these people onto your land? There’s no such thing as political emigration—these people just don’t want to lose touch with the civilized world. And you allow it, but at what cost?
We, the Cossacks, are used to a democratic way of life. When electing a chief, people would line up in two rows, with everyone holding a stick. Then the newly elected chief would walk through this corridor and receive a blow from each Cossack. He would be thrashed, meaning that once he’s back being a regular Cossack, he’d be held accountable for everything, just like everyone else. Same is true today. If we’re not happy with the authorities, we don’t flee, instead, we protest and make change—at any cost!
And everyone opposing tyranny should do the same.
Everyone in Ukraine has put disagreements and differences aside. Once the war is over, we might get back at each other’s throats. But until then, we’ll keep standing just like this—together.
If we hadn’t escaped Bucha that very day, we wouldn’t ever be able to leave. It was a trap.
My name is Victoria Kurilenko. I have a son who is 20, a daughter, 5. Like others, we lived in Bucha proper, but commuted to Kyiv for work. I am a journalist and a screenwriter. When the war broke out, I was writing television scripts. At 5 AM on a Monday morning, I woke up to the sound of a jet. My daughter asked me what was going on. I told her to go back to sleep.
On Monday, Hostomel was bombed. Black smoke was rising. And then the paratroopers appeared… the jet was from the other side. They were heading toward Bucha. On the third day, our water, heating, and power supplies were cut off. It was freezing cold. Phones didn’t work either.
We went to bed at home and at 2 AM we had to go down to the basement, together with the sleeping children. People started panicking. It felt like a scene from a horror movie: the blue sky, the sun, explosions, and smoke…
We were running out of groceries and candles. Our phones died. Then we got electric generators and were able to charge our phones sometimes. Once the Russian troops came back, we could no longer use the generators. They made too much noise.
They set up a blockade.
Every bridge was blown up. There was only one road left to Kyiv. It was open and dangerous, but people risked it anyway. One of my friends just took off with an e-scooter together with her 5-year-old child.
I don’t know if we would have fled. My friends came over from Hostomel. Their house had been blown up so they spent two days with us. Their family is just like ours—a mother and father with two children like my Mark and Marinka. Together we came up with an escape plan. Without them, we probably wouldn’t have been able to plan our escape. The last straw was when our neighbours came over and asked to dress their wounds… One of them was simply walking down the street at 5 pM when a Russian APC shot her. She just lay there, bleeding to death. My husband brought her to our apartment building. We had a doctor in our building and he took care of her.
My friends tried to escape in an automobile, too, but Russians riddled it with bullets. Their bullets hit a 4-year-old child; he was wounded really bad. So, they had to turn back. We soon realized that fleeing on foot, through forests and over rivers, was a better option. Our friends left first. We waited 15 minutes to follow them so as not to be noticed. Still, they shot at us three times. We were mostly women with children.
We had to make it to Irpin. We knew that there was a transportation station operating in the local church, and that we could charge our phones there. If I knew what awaited us in Irpin, I probably wouldn’t have fled.
I still don’t understand why they were firing at us, peaceful citizens. One of the bullets flew inches away from my husband’s shoulder. There’s this beautiful park in Irpin, surrounded by hi-tech skyscrapers. As soon as we entered, they started bombing. Shrapnel and debris were falling all over the place. My husband was trying to cover our daughter. We’d get up, try to run away, and then fall again. We were running for an hour when someone gave us a ride to the church where we finally charged our phones.
Then we were told that we were on our own and that we had to cross the blown-up bridge near the village of Romanovka. There was shooting from both sides and there was a Russian drone hovering over us that our troops were trying to take down. A soldier picked up my 5-year-old daughter. She was laughing, thinking it was just a game. My boy, on the other hand, was really stressed out…
There were bodies lying on both sides of the bridge.
Not everyone made it through.
We got lucky.
Vika from Irpin
Sometimes it feels like watching an action movie that you can turn off to let life go on as usual.
As a non-binary transfeminine person, it’s been devastating for me to realize that I wouldn’t be able to leave the country just because of the way I look, and what my passport says—male.
Luckily, I have a ‘white ticket’ exempting me from military service. I started transitioning right before the war. But I’ve put it off until things quiet down.
I have 18 pets: 7 dogs and the rest are cats. One of my dogs suffered a stroke. I was walking it out, and suddenly, as shots were being fired, my dog’s legs got paralyzed. Although recovered, it’s still too afraid to walk outside.
I was expecting this war—everything was leading to it.
I possess certain powers. I can see and feel more than others can. I have been sensing pressure on Ukraine’s space since 2012, a kind of pressure that weakens a human being’s vibration field.
Next, there was the revolution and the war that’s been going on for 8 years.
All day on February 23 I was suffering from unbearable pain. I was crying. Then I went to the bathhouse. I felt that something was about to happen. At 4 AM, I woke up to the sounds of an explosion. I went down into the basement together with my pets.
I wasn't really afraid of death. What petrified me was the idea of losing my children. They were far away from me, too far to cover them with a shelter.
People have been sleeping far too long. What we see today is the Ukrainian people’s transforming spirit. The nation is being reborn. Those awakening today are breathing in unison, with shared energy. And these people feel one another.
Now feminine energy is imperative. Instead of cursing, we must channel it toward love for the country. We must curb hatred.
When will Putin die? That’s what people ask me all the time.
I reply that Putin may die, but the energy will simply relocate someplace else.
We must strengthen one another’s energies and quit feeding creatures like him.
What we feel now is their sustenance.
Translation: Irakli Beridze