• Photo: C4I
SOS Ukraine

Svetlana had to flee twice

Marijke Terlouw - 5 April 2022

Svetlana (66 years old) seems a bit quiet now that she is on her way to Israel, away from the war in Ukraine. However, she is still eager to tell me what happened to her. That is her way of coping with everything that has happened to her. Telling her story is somehow comforting to her.

“This is the second time I have fled. Originally, I’m from Donetsk, in the east of Ukraine. I have lived there for years. But then the war came. Not this war, but the war that began in the Donetsk region back in 2014. With the war came foreign people in the city. But just accepting the Russians was no so easy for me. I had a nice house there, nice people around me. Actually, I didn’t want to leave, but I went anyway. At first, I hoped that I could return later. But after a few months I knew that it would never be the same again.”

“My daughter lives in Kiev, so that’s where I went. There, I heard about the town of Irpin, near Kiev. I bought a house there. The town was developing. Lots of construction works and new stores. I had a new home again. And then the war came again, and everything changed. My world seemed to collapse. Irpin is – or rather was – a strategic place. There was shooting, bombing, rockets hitting. It was terrifying. So much worse than Donetsk!”

“I stayed home, I lived on the first floor. The shelter was too far away. It was so intense. I wanted to stay, I wanted to have a home. Then suddenly there were no more gas, water, and electricity. Just nothing. It was very cold, and it was just pure survival. Neighbors ended up just making a fire in the yard to heat some food. And we found a way to use a generator to charge our phones. Then you went up to the tenth floor and, with a little luck, you had coverage.”

“There was no choice but to evacuate. I left on 9 March. With a suitcase with some food, but without any clothes. I was able to stay with relatives in Kiev for two weeks and they arranged some clothes for me, because I only had the clothes I was wearing. However, Kiev was not safe either. But I knew one thing: I had to decide what to do. My daughter was no longer in Kiev. She fled to Poland even before I fled from Irpin. And then I knew: I’m going to Israel. Through Nataliya, a C4I team member from Kiev, I knew that was a possibility. From time to time I received a food package from her.”

“That decision to contact her and go to Israel was part of the solution, even though I don’t know where I’m going in Israel. I have no relatives there, no immediate friends. But I am so tired of running from place to place, so tired. Women may understand me when I say that I do miss my nice clothes, perfume, and a nice necklace a little bit. I put on what I have been given. Having something of your own already makes you feel so much better. What I really want to say is that I don’t need that much: some food, clothes, a roof over my head. That is enough. But I want to be myself again, be at home somewhere and experience peace. That’s why I’m going to Israel.”


When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

Psalm 126


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