Olena Horetova

Greetings, my name is Olena. I am now 36 years old and the mother of a 16-year-old girl. Our family is from Kharkiv. I have a higher economic education and worked as a financial controller for a long time. However, it was time for burnout, so I left the profession and opened an online yarn store. For 2 years, I did what I loved. But after the war broke out, sales had to be curtailed. Therefore, I am currently looking for remote work.

Until February 24, we had a busy life. We spent a lot of time on our family hobby — picking mushrooms. We lived in the suburbs near a coniferous forest. Therefore, we became interested in quiet hunting. So, last spring I picked porcini mushrooms for the first time. What an excitement! And last fall we went for honey mushrooms and Polish ones.

The war was a real shock for me. On the evening of February 23, we filled up a full tank of petrol. Just did it. Later we realized that this was a good decision. My husband the day before begged to go abroad, or at least somewhere in the western region of Ukraine. He believed in the beginning of the invasion. I refused, because I simply did not believe in a full-scale war. Those are our brothers, there are many relatives and acquaintances there – they will not allow this!

How mistaken I was, unfortunately.

February 24, 2022. At 5 a.m., my husband’s sister called. She said that the explosions were very clearly heard (they lived in Kharkiv near the KTP area). My husband woke up and started reading the news. My daughter was going to college for classes. But I was already worried, so I told her that she wasn’t going anywhere that day. And then my husband began to read aloud an article from Censor.net. Everything was a blur. As if through a curtain, I could hear his words. I didn’t notice the content of the article itself. I only remembered one word — it was read through the text and was written at the end in capital letters: WAR.

The first reaction was SHOCK. I couldn’t understand what I was hearing. It seemed that all this was happening to anyone but us. Then I called my mother (in the Kharkiv region). She said they were bombing a military unit nearby. Over time, explosions were also heard in our suburbs. My dog was trembling with terror — I’ve never seen him so scared. It was then, just in case, that we collected the most necessary things. This is how our first, and hopefully last, war experience began.

From the first moment of the invasion, my husband was determined to leave. But I tried to dissuade him, because panic is not the best companion. Then we realized that it was the right decision. Later, right on the roads, in courtyards, on the roadsides, we saw a lot of shelled and burned cars.

I remember how scary it was… But it was time to act and we realized that we had to prepare ourselves for everything. First of all, I ran to the store. There I saw chaos. It was then that I first realized that people only care about themselves… They swept off the shelves food in packs, boxes, packages. They didn’t care that there were a lot of others in line. I was reassured by the fact that there were small supplies at home. We could have held out for a week or two. Plus, there are some preserves in the cellar. Then I stopped by a pet store and bought food for my dog and cat. I also managed to buy a bottle of oil, some sausage, and a roll of toilet paper).

We have collected water in all possible containers, because if there is no light, the pump in the well will not work. My husband and daughter were waiting for me at home. I hardly came in, as the explosions started again. Yes, don’t panic! The brain is such a strange thing. At this critical moment, it isolated itself and distanced itself from the surrounding circumstances, cutting off prostration and panic moods. I didn’t want to cry at all, and I couldn’t.

Caring for animals saved me. The dog was taken outside in between the explosions. We used to walk a lot, so it got used to moving, and it couldn’t understand why now we need to do things quickly and immediately return home.

I was also particularly concerned about my daughter’s safety: what would happen if a shell hits our house, if everything collapses… So, we took certain measures. At home, we had a climbing frame in our room. Such a cool, big thing – 2 m in height and 1.5×1.5

in width and depth. Under this frame, we made a bed for our daughter. Therefore, if the roof suddenly falls, she will not suffer. Then I gave my daughter valuable instructions on what to do and where to go if we suddenly got hurt or were gone.

On the evening of February 25, we decided to leave. It was a very difficult decision. We have wanted to have our own house for so long, we have invested so much effort in the arrangement and renovation. There was so much love in every detail. It was a real, desirable home… And now we have to go into complete uncertainty. Nowhere. We didn’t go alone. My daughter’s classmate and her mother also left with us. But they later went to Poland.

We left early in the morning, on February 26. Only the most necessary things were put in the trunk, taking into account the axe and cauldron. After all, we didn’t know where and how we would have to spend the night. We left Kharkiv. Outside the city, the road was like a landscape, from games about the apocalypse: battered and burned cars, and a wasteland. There was no one. The usually busy track has become completely empty. It’s like it’s extinct.

On the way, we stopped at every gas station to add petrol. It was important that the tank always remained full. We were very surprised by our animals. A cat and a dog usually couldn’t stand each other. But then they were like cuties — they understood everything. The dog was in the front seat with me. My white down jacket was all covered with traces of dog’s paws)). I was looking like a homeless person)). Only on the way I gave free rein to tears a bit. They somehow flowed by themselves; I just couldn’t control it. There was a feeling of complete emptiness.

We tried not to lose heart. We joked a little, because fear is a bad neighbor. We said: “Finally there will be an express trip by Ukraine.» We imagined that this was a kind of movement in search of adventure. But we were able to exhale a bit only when we crossed the Dnieper.

Now I am actively looking for remote work, selling the remaining yarn from the warehouse. After all, during the war, it is almost impossible to conduct business. There were also pleasant events. My husband and I postponed our wedding for 10 years. We’ve been waiting for the right opportunity. We bought a car, then arranged the house not to be ashamed in front of our parents. And we got married in early March 2022, during wartime, being in limbo, not understanding what will happen tomorrow.

Now I remembered that I knit perfectly. This is my small hobby, which gives comfort. My mother taught me how to knit with knitting needles when I was little. However, I’ve always wanted more. Therefore, from the textbooks from the library, I learned to work with crocheting.

Today knitting for me became a real joy, a breath of fresh air, water in thirst. This is an opportunity to create something unique, warm, just yours. In the process, I always think of something calm. For example, what flowers I will plant, that they need to be watered, tied up.

I don’t go too deep into my dreams. After all, I realized that you need to be careful with them)). I’ll explain why. My husband wanted to live somewhere else to “dilute everyday life” a little. And I dreamed of big hydrangea bushes in the garden. Well, now we live 1000 km from the house, and near the new house there are 2 huge hydrangea bushes. Dreams come true)). But now I’m really missing. I just want to see my parents, go home. That’s what I’m thinking about. I hope my dreams come true as soon as possible.