Illustration photo – A train passes the ruins of a tire shop in Lviv, Ukraine, after a Russian airstrike on April 18, 2022.
Lviv/Prague – Last night on February 24, Ukrainian Svitlana, who lived in Lviv at the time, was woken up by her acquaintance from America. She called her at 4:30 and said: Ukraine is being bombed! “She told me to take the children and run away. At first I didn't want to leave Ukraine, but then I decided to go to the Czech Republic,” said Svitlana in an interview with ČTK. Now she and her children are back in Lviv in the west of Ukraine, where, according to her, the situation is calmer, but even here, sirens warning of a rocket attack are often sounded several times a day.
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“Life in my country has changed fundamentally over the past year. Pain, despair and sadness can be seen in people's eyes. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. Prices went up, lots of people lost their jobs. Even so, everyone believes in the Ukrainian army. And in Ukraine's victory,” says 43-year-old Svitlana. She stayed in the Czech Republic with her two children until the end of last summer. “In the summer, it seemed to me that the war would end soon, so we returned to Ukraine. In addition, we had somewhere to return to, many people do not have such an opportunity because their homes were destroyed,” adds the Ukrainian, who is a puppeteer.
As in many other parts of Ukraine, electricity supplies in Lviv now operate in a certain alternating mode. “The electricity, and therefore the light, is turned off for four hours a day and four hours at night. Sometimes we don't have light for up to eight hours. When the missiles hit the electrical infrastructure, the electricity only works for a few hours a day,” he describes. Even though there have been problems and shutdowns, they still have water at home. Because they have a stove and heat the house themselves, they also have heat. However, people who have central heating at home are without electricity and without heat. At the same time, it has been snowing in Lviv for the past few days and temperatures have often been below freezing. Public transport in the city works as before and shops are also open, they only close in case of a rocket attack, the Ukrainian describes the situation in her hometown.
“When it comes to raids, it's different. Sometimes it's quiet for several days, other times we hear sirens several times a day. We run to hide in the shelter,” says Svitlana. “People get used to everything. Even with sirens and lights off. We try to live on, even if it's not like before. But people help each other a lot,” he adds. How are her children coping? She says she is not afraid because she herself tries not to panic.
As she says, her family lives day by day because nothing can be planned. Despite the war, Svitlana still tries to work as before. And it was no different, even when she lived together with her children for several months in the Czech Republic. “Czech friends supported us a lot. We played a play. My friend drew pictures and sold them, and I got the money from the performance and the sold drawings so that I could send them to help the Ukrainian army,” said the Ukrainian.
Svitlana continues to play puppet theater for children in Ukraine as well. The theater also organizes a charity performance for the children of internally displaced persons who have lost their homes. “I also go to the volunteer center, where we knit camouflage nets that our soldiers need to cover equipment and cars,” Svitlana says. No one from her family has yet been drafted into the war, but as she says, it's only a matter of time. However, many colleagues from the theater are struggling. For example, the director went to the front in the very first days, was seriously wounded and now serves in Lviv.
“Personally, I do not think that the war will end soon. But it is certain that Ukraine will be free,” she says, adding that she would also like to thank the Czechs for the help they provide to her country. “It's not easy for you either, this war has affected everyone. But I will remember your kindness for the rest of my life,” concludes Svitlana.