A child. A father. The plunderer. The car. We went to the hospital on the other side of the city. But it was almost impossible to move, Kyiv was tied up in traffic jams: children and adults, with their dogs and cats, all trying to evacuate.
I begged my dad to just take a taxi and leave the hospital to meet us—in vain. “My place is next to my wife,” he told me. My mother, meanwhile, was moving out of Brovary, where she was sheltering with my brother’s family, and leaving town. That morning I shouted at my dad, so that my voice sat down. Dad got to Mom on his own, and I think my hair turned grey that day.
We stopped at my father-in-law’s house near Kyiv. There was a shelter—a cellar with wooden doors that did not even have a lock. And shelves with cucumbers, strawberry jam, boxes of carrots. In the cold, I could see my breath. When they bombed, we went there, sat on chairs, froze to the bone. When it was quiet, we collapsed in exhaustion, went to the house for a short sleep, with all our clothes still on. During the day I wrote materials for vogue.ua. Instead of beauty tips, they are now tips on how to stop bleeding from wounds.
My colleague from Czech Vogue, Sindi Kerberova, has written often and offered support: accommodations, help, sympathy—everything. This woman, whom I had only met once in my life, offered her hand and opened her heart. “Take your father, your mother, your child, and go.” If it hadn’t been for Sindi, we wouldn’t have made it.
On our way we stopped in Frankivsk, at an acquaintance’s house. We were welcomed to a warm house, a full table, a hot shower, and a comfortable bed. After the days spent living between the cellar and the house, and the exhausting road, where we had to change a flat tire for two hours as the cold winds chilled us, I shed tears. The next day we were on our way to the cordon. Everything was ready, even sandwiches for the journey. But at the last second, I realized that I could not leave my country. I can’t separate from my son. I can’t leave my boyfriend. No one knows how much time we have left, but we’ll spend it together.
Well, we are in Ukraine. We help our country and we are Ukrainians. Together we are stronger. With us God is with us, we are strong. We have the support of the world. This is the moment when the confrontation between good and evil takes place. And we know that the good will prevail.
Valeria Lacoma, editor of vogue.ua.
February 24 at 5:00 a.m. I was awakened by a man shouting: “Lera, wake up! War has begun!” I was shocked. “Surely, he’s being dramatic,” I thought, but I still went to get out my suitcases. For an hour, I threw everything I needed into them. At that time nobody understood the scale of the tragedy. We decided to go out of town. We thought it would be quiet there. When we drove out, it became clear that the situation was very serious. Tremendous traffic jams, hundreds of cars trying to get fuel, wild lines at supermarkets, closed pharmacies. Fear in everyone’s eyes. I started accessing social media and found scary videos of Russians vilifying our country! Later I got a message that it was a mistake to leave the city, because we were in a dangerous place, even with Russian troops and bodyguards advancing in our direction.
The lack of a bomb shelter, the military base nearby, and the information that tanks were coming 500 metres away from our house made the situation more difficult every day. For the first time I felt bombs exploding; the bombers were flying over my head, and the bridges connecting us to the city were collapsing. I practically didn’t sleep for three days. I cannot put into words the fear and helplessness that overwhelmed me when I thought we could be cut off from the city altogether: without connection, food, water, medicines.
Each day the feeling that life could end at any moment grew stronger and stronger. With God’s help we were able to get out of Kyiv. The journey was long and difficult: some roads were blown up, explosions were heard everywhere, fights took place in the air, we had to go by detours and pass dozens of checkpoints, where everything was not always smooth. We waited in long queues and waited out curfews in cities. I prayed that we would be safe and that we would find petrol, because without it we could get stuck driving through fields. Luckily, everything worked out. I am now outside Kyiv and I am still traveling through Ukraine and I hope this nightmare will soon be over.