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44 Days Without Daylight – Narratives about living in war-torn Ukraine

Together with her family, Nadiya has lived in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv when the war broke out in Ukraine. Along with Kiev and Odessa, Kharkiv was one of the first cities to be attacked by the Russian army at the beginning of the war. To get themselves and their two daughters to safety, the family moved into the basement of the house on February 24, the first day of the war. At that time, Nadiya's older daughter is eight years and the little one just four months old. "Noise we had never heard before came from the outside. It was a noise that scared us. That time traumatized me," says Nadiya.

"Sometimes I feel like a zombie"

After a few weeks, the family no longer feels safe in the basement and decides to leave Kharkiv. On April 9, Nadiya and her family join an evacuation to Lviv, a city in the western part of Ukraine. The family sees daylight again for the first time in 44 days. "My eight-year-old daughter had to cover her eyes because she was blinded by the light. It must have taken 20 minutes before she was able to remove her hands from her eyes. My heart was breaking. Our kids are carrying a heavy burden," says Nadiya. The experiences of the first weeks of the war have left their mark on Nadiya. She explains that her hearing has suffered from the constant explosions in the immediate vicinity. And she has not yet recovered psychologically either. "I throw myself on the ground and burst into tears every time I hear a bomb alert. Fear is my constant companion. It runs deep, I can't get rid of it. Sometimes I feel like a zombie," Nadya reports. On the run to Lviv, Nadiya sees bombs falling and people dying. "I would not wish anyone to see what my family and I had to witness," Nadiya says.


Safe for now?

After just a few days in Lviv, Nadiya's husband finds a new job and after a few weeks the family is able to move from a shared emergency shelter into a residential container. "Life in the new apartment is already much more comfortable. From Malteser Ukraine we have received a new stroller for my little daughter. I don't have to carry her in my arms all the time, which is great. Step by step, life is getting a bit easier. But we don't know how long it will be like this. There are more bombings and power outages in Lviv. It is not clear how long we will be safe here. If I was allowed one wish, it would be peace. That's all I need," says Nadiya.

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