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refugee

by Varvara (Ukraine)

March 2022

Write the World Review

Audio: "refugee," read by Varvara

​​5:33 a.m.

i woke up to a rapid push: we were underway. our commuter train had been standing still since 10 p.m. the previous day: we were letting an on-coming train pass us since there was only one railway line leading to the country’s border. seven hours of complete stillness and darkness in a tiny coach with certainly ten times more people than there were supposed to be.

there hasn’t been a moment of silence since we set off. behind me—a three-month-old baby. it has been crying for an indefinite amount of time. in front of me—three little children aged somewhere between three and ten sitting in the arms of their mothers. they too have been crying for an indefinite amount of time. they are hungry, tired, scared. and i feel for them. and it hurts.

normally, the road from lviv to przemysl should have taken us only one to two hours. however, the situation is clearly beyond normal. everything seems to be so beyond normal.

my phone died a couple of hours ago. i don’t care much about that—there is no service around this god-forsaken field we have been standing in. the only thing i care about is my mom not hearing back from me for quite a while now. her paranoid mind probably thinks that i got stuck somewhere, got kicked out of the train. i am indeed all alone here so she has her reasons to be anxious. we said our goodbyes at the train station in my hometown. in the tiny window, i saw her standing on the platform, lost and consumed by her thoughts, trying to see me through the glass from the other side, holding back the tears. she never cries.

i hope to see her soon. or, should i say, i just hope to see her again.

i still wonder what terrible luck got me onto this train. i remember how it was, i remember it from the very beginning. from my best friend waking me up with a phone call to us packing the go-bags; to us going to the store and seeing nothing on the shelves; to people panicking on the streets; to students leaving their dorm rooms without looking back; to my mom begging me to come home from kyiv; to me catching the last train home; to me seeing thousands of people at a subway station—with kids, pets, suitcases; to me coming home and us sitting in the air-raid shelter every day; to my mom convincing me to leave, to cross the border all alone, right before they would surround our city and there would be no way out; to me almost suffocating in the crowd when boarding the train to lviv; to us having ten people in the seat instead of the regular four, to a couple of ecuadorian students sitting in the train hall with a tiny dog in their hands; to the kids crying; to the women fighting; to finally exiting this tired train.

i remember boarding at 7:55 p.m. the previous day, remember the complete chaos at the railway station. mothers with children, screaming and crying out to the train conductors: “please, i have a baby here, please, help us!”; people shouting at each other because of pushing and pulling; men trying to make way for their wives and kids, shoving them onto the train; bags and suitcases being handed above the crowd of heads; children being handed over as well; bags falling down, falling on the heads, falling on the rails; the conductors trying to keep a cold head but still losing their temper. and i remember myself in the center of it: i was going with the flow, in complete peace, having no strength for anything else, holding my tote bag tightly, with that weird confidence that i would one way or another get onto that train. my sensory systems were completely overloaded, and i was out of touch. still, hope remained. physically unable to scream or push or cry or even say something after a number of sleepless nights, i just believed in this. simply going with the flow. and somehow i got on. and somehow i was lucky.

“yes, lucky,” you’d agree.

and i’d say: “yes, a refugee.”


Varvara is an eighteen-year-old university student. On February 24th, 2022, she was woken up at 5 a.m. by a call from her best friend telling her that the airport located near their dorm was being bombed. Running from the war, she spent around 72 hours on the road when she finally reached her final destination—the Polish border crossing point.

#Ukraine Dispatch            #Ukraine

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Alefiya

5/17/22, 4:27 PM

Beautiful

Sweety

5/16/22, 11:40 AM

I am waiting with anxiety what does she doesto fight back these things which are very complicate to handle for a teenager...... I am Very anxious because I am in the same situation..... So I want to know what will she do.....

Somma

5/15/22, 3:16 PM

This is such a wonderful piece. I love it so much!

Rain Wind Thunderstorm

5/13/22, 10:46 AM

You are really good at writing. And at such a young age! If you don't mind me saying so, your writing style is warm and cozy. And also at the same time, very deep, meaningful and relatable. I especially loved the "The Reflection" part.

Sierra

5/13/22, 9:28 AM

I really wanna know what does she does to fight back these things which are hard to handle for a teenager.

Mira

5/11/22, 2:37 PM

I loved every word of this. Maybe because I am relating too hard. I hardly possess any of the love or filial piety I am expected to have towards my family. I am dubious of anything my grandmother says to me and have long learned to just swallow it all with a smile though I question how much I know. And. Just. Knowing. That you will be forgotten by your extended family for the rest of the year but still held up to their expectations. Thank you for writing this! I'll always remember a beautiful #ownvoices story :).

Srishti Roy

5/10/22, 6:57 AM

I really am curious about how she is gonna fight this situation and will she be able to fulfill her dreams which she once had

Alena

5/6/22, 2:03 PM

Ooh I really love this! What a great ending too. Fellow students, we've got this!

Alena

5/6/22, 1:53 PM

I love this piece so much. Novels and writing rarely makes me cry, but this was just too relatable.

Alena

5/6/22, 1:51 PM

This was so beautiful, and created such a detailed image in my mind!

glitterdays

5/6/22, 11:35 AM

I thought that was a truly insightful piece. As a teen writer myself, your words were a refreshing reminder of the meaning behind adolescence. Thank you for bringing your writing into the world, and hope to see more of it soon.