Mykola  ·  Ukraine

I Had Only Five Minutes to Say Goodbye to My Family

I don't know how to shoot. I’ve held a gun once in my life and shot two times, which was a long time ago.

Edited by Nicole Taylor
Illustration by Liz Jevtic-Somlai

I had no idea that I had so many friends willing to help and send money and just give me emotional support. What would I do if I was alone?

This is a message Mykola sent to his friends. When we received this transcript, they hadn’t heard from him in over a week. We have since learned he crossed the border and is safe.

I’ve had a shock. Leaving my family was much harder than I thought. If I could turn back time, knowing what I would have to go through, I would not do it. I would just stay where I was. We were in the basement in a house with my parents, with food storage, but that was very stressful for my two kids because we would have to go to that basement three times a day and during the night. When they heard noises, they’d start running. That was not good for them.

We left by train early Monday morning. From 5pm Friday until Monday morning, there is a curfew - if you go out they might shoot you thinking that you are the enemy. So, we went early in the morning to the train station. The rail station was quite empty and it appeared that men could get on a train, so I left my car, jumped on the train and went with them [my wife, two kids, and my parents] to Lviv. I only took my backpack and they took a bag with necessities.

The train was supposed to go to Poland but it stopped in Lviv, and from there you had to take another train to Poland. We tried to do that but Lviv was so crowded that it wasn’t possible to get on. People waited for two, three days, and some still couldn’t go.

There was an old grandmother, around 78 years old, with her daughter, around 56 years old on the same train…and they were desperate. So we took them with us to an apartment that one of the [church] members provided for us in Lviv. Ten people slept on two beds. The old lady’s son saw that we helped his mom and he said that he would help us.

The next day, the son tried to find a way that I, being a male, could evacuate with my family. That didn’t work. He did find buses that were hidden from other people. But, there were only two tickets left and the elderly ladies took them. My family and I came back to the apartment to make a new plan. There were rumors that Poland was going to close its borders.

We talked with people who had tried to cross into Poland. They said there are 50 kilometers of cars standing in a line - it takes days to go through it. If you take a taxi to the border, and try to cross the border on foot, you will have to walk 10 hours, and then sleep on the streets. With kids it is not possible.

But then, the bus that left with those elderly people announced that three people didn’t make it, so they had three spots. The bus was already leaving. So, I called a taxi and convinced the driver that he could catch the bus with my family and they could be evacuated. I had only five minutes to say goodbye to my family.

It is hard to remember. We got the taxi and they got in. The driver said we probably wouldn’t catch the bus because of the road blocks guarded by soldiers. I told him, “Don’t worry if you don’t make it, that’s just how it’s going to be, no problem.”

He really did his best, and he caught the bus.

On a bus, it is very easy to cross the border. It could take a day, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re safe there, and it’s warm.

My family crossed the border and is now in Poland. Now, I’m trying to find a way to take care of them. It’s hard to plan because I don’t know how long it’s going to be. My wife is the only one who speaks English. No one speaks German. My parents speak only Russian and Ukrainian, the kids speak only Russian.

My main goal is just to see my family again. First, I need to get them money. Second, I need to establish them well. After that, I will think about what I can do here. I was told that the military defense in Lviv doesn’t need people, that I have to move to Kiev.

So I need to calm down and make the right decision.

I don’t know how to shoot. I’ve held a gun once in my life and shot two times, which was a long time ago.

I hope I can be a better help somewhere else.

I had no idea that I had so many friends willing to help and send money and just give me emotional support. What would I do if I was alone? That would be so hard. It’s just more than I thought it was going to be. I’m much weaker than I thought. I’m just a human and I trust in Heavenly Father and whatever is going to happen, is going to happen.

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