Trying to Escape
by Yelyzaveta (Ukraine)
Audio: "Trying to Escape," read by Helen Grant
The last five minutes I was running to the railway station under sounds of sirens. Do I have to hide? Do I have enough time? Where to run? I won't survive, I think.
Sirens stop and I appear at the railway station. There are thousands of people and my mind calls to memory how to stay safe in the crowd. I have a train ticket but tickets don’t matter anymore. I have to get anywhere! I have to run away from the gunshots on the streets!
My friends are staying in bomb shelters for now. My relatives are in other cities. I’m 18 years old and leaving Kyiv alone. Others will leave later, when they lose their hope that it’s just a nightmare.
The evacuation train is announced: it goes to Lviv. The crowd on the platform is hardly stopped by police. People say that earlier police shot in the air. How can police shoot near people running away from the war?
I'm lucky, as a girl I was put on the train. On this platform families are divided and children are lost. I ask people on the train not to read the news. I'm afraid so much that the train will be shot by rockets. When I am safe, I will read the news of Mykolaiv, where my parents are. I will read the news of Kyiv, where my friends are. But here, with no influence over the violence, news of what could transpire—of battles along the journey—is something that only terrifies.
All the time I hold a gas spray in my hands, I fear that somebody can take my only backpack away.
I learn the names of people next to me. There is Katya, she’s an elementary school teacher and is leaving Donetsk with two children. They’re on their way for over twenty-four hours and don't have water. There is Lera, a cynologist. She is with two big dogs, one of them lies on the floor and whines—she is scared and thirsty.
Everybody is with somebody. They have a plan and relatives abroad, while I think that I can make it alone. I suggested that my mother and sister come. But mom does not want to leave father, cat, and grandmother. The father will not be able to leave, the grandmother does not want to, and the cat simply does not understand anything and hides under the bed.
In the train I hear sirens three times. The first time, I am very scared; I don’t understand where to hide. Later I became apathetic; I can’t influence anything. I can't even fall on the floor: there is a dog. I'm waiting for Lviv and hope everything is finished.
But it isn’t finished. Lviv meets me with more air raid alerts, more panic attacks. All hopes that I could be safe in the quiet west of Ukraine have vanished. War is here too.
Two hours of sleep. Three air raids. Children who seem to be already accustomed to running to the basement of the nearest school. I'm shaking, but still here. I have to find transport to the border. I learn that a started engine sometimes sounds like sirens.
I feel only cold. I wore autumn shoes and thin socks. I lost my hat and gloves, so my head is in my hood and hands in pockets. I stand in queues for hours, the ground under my feet like ice.
It takes seven hours on foot to reach the border. I climb over the fence of the checkpoint, push through the crowd of foreigners and a burnt-out fire next to the Polish line. I feel cold everywhere. But I have made it. I go to the nearest refugee camp and there I finally cry. Life will never be the same.
Yelyzaveta is eighteen years old. She abandoned her studies and work on the third day of the war and left. At first she was in Poland; now she is trying to find herself in the Czech Republic.
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9/24/22, 2:13 PM
Was this inspired by flights over Iceland?
9/24/22, 10:04 AM
Amazing. I love it.
9/23/22, 7:34 AM
This is just so good!!!! "The air has been poisoned' I love how you describe things! Congrats :))
9/23/22, 7:32 AM
Love the message! The way you prompt the readers to rethink over 'is anything free' is so effective and the ending is...gorgeous.
9/23/22, 7:30 AM
Gosh, Antara...this is really beautiful! I love your use of language, and the anecdotes were so effective!! Congrats so much :))
9/22/22, 9:30 PM
I love it! Especially the part where you say if humans can control the world, they can control themselves too!
Keep up the brilliant writing!
9/22/22, 5:22 PM
Poignant and so beautifully written!
9/22/22, 5:19 PM
I love the flow, this is gorgeously written! Great piece!
9/22/22, 5:17 PM
Life really is all about the little things and you wrote about them in a beautiful way!
9/22/22, 5:16 PM
This is a lovely piece, Keren-Happuch! It provokes such a magical and dreamy feeling.
9/19/22, 5:47 PM
Oh my god, the part about changing the mindset given the pre-existing beliefs drilled in by those around us... Even we often hesitate to have these conversations at times amongst friends as this topic is seldom more than a subject of twss jokes. You put it into words brilliantly!
9/17/22, 6:46 PM
this was thought-provoking! I particularly enjoyed how you connected existentialism to the topic. it provides a different perspective.