Journal d’Ukraine: “Terrified, we would be separated while fleeing” | Russia–Ukraine War


Zakhida Adylova, 35, is a language teacher and producer of a political talk show who lives in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

She is a Crimean Tatar, a Muslim ethnic minority who was forcibly expelled from her homeland, the Crimean Peninsula, to Uzbekistan in 1944 under the orders of Joseph Stalin. In 1993, Zakhida returned from exile with her family in Crimea, Ukraine. Then in 2014, she and her daughter were forced from their home in Crimea to Kiev after the peninsula was annexed by Russia. Zakhida’s mother joined them a year later. Now the three face a Russian invasion again, sheltering in the bathroom and hallway of their apartment. Zakhida has kept a diary since the start of the war. This is his account today.

Day 10: Saturday March 5, 2022 – “It was time to go”

5:45 a.m. I woke up early in the morning because I had a live interview with a Chicago-based news station about how I was doing in Kyiv and what I planned to do. I told them that I would stay in Kyiv as long as possible. Then I went back to sleep until about 11am.

When I woke up, however, things had changed. I follow various media resources, including Telegram channels, and in one of them a police official said that in his opinion the people of Kyiv should leave, warning that the city would become very dangerous if it was under attack and people could be cut off from help. I figured there was nothing in the stores already and that it would come if my mother needed medical attention. If the city faced heavy bombardment, how would we leave?

I spent much of my day crying, anxious about making a decision and disappointed and angry about leaving, but I needed to think about my daughter, my mother and myself.

4am. I spoke to a psychologist with an online support network and after speaking I felt much better. She told me that whether to stay or leave, I was still making a decision. I knew what I had to do. It was time to leave.

6 p.m. I baked some bread and decided that tomorrow we would pack up and leave.

9 p.m. My Ukrainian friend and her husband who have been stuck in Denmark since the invasion started messaged me and told me to come and live with them. Many friends outside Ukraine offered to host me and my family. For now we will go to Poland and once there I will decide whether we should stay or go somewhere else.

Since being forced out of Crimea, Zakhida has learned to take only the essentials [Courtesy of Zakhida Adylova]

Day 11: Sunday March 6, 2022 – “Terrified we would be crushed or separated”

10 a.m. My mother and my daughter woke up. My 75 year old mother was crying. She felt that something was happening and she understood that I had made a decision.

I told her we had to leave, but she wouldn’t. She said she was too old to move out and nothing would happen to her.

I told her that I couldn’t force her to leave with us, but that I was responsible for my daughter and that we had to leave. I told her to be ready in half an hour if she came with us. I was extremely worried that she would choose to stay, but luckily she didn’t.

We packed quickly. After being forced out of my homeland when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, I’ve learned to take only what I need – and nothing sentimental. I only take the most important things: my laptop for work, external batteries, clothes, toothpaste, toothbrush, underwear, clothes and documents. I packed for my 11 year old daughter, Samira, and my mom and I packed her own with her Quran.

My daughter filled her backpack with toys and games. “Samira, what are you doing? ” I asked him. “I need it, mom,” she said.

At least I know these things will distract her.

Once we had packed our bags, I started looking for a car to take us to the train station. It was too risky to drive all the way to Lviv, which is to the west and near the Polish border, but I still looked for a car to take us west even though I was also looking for one to take us to the station. I called my brother who told me to call our friend who could help me. Finally, around 1 p.m., our friend drove us to the station, and the trip – normally 15 minutes by car with no traffic – lasted about half an hour as we were slowed down going around tank traps and going through the checkpoints.

2 p.m. We arrived at Kiev Central Station. There were so many people. I found out that two trains had already left Kiev for Lviv. I was so frustrated to learn that we had missed them. The people waiting there said there would be another train at 5 p.m.

But then there was an announcement that more trains were leaving for the west. There was a crowd of people and I decided not to join the crowd as I was terrified that we would be crushed or separated in the crowd. People were screaming and swearing. It was incredibly tense.

A few minutes later there was an unexpected announcement of a train to Lviv departing from platform 8. The three of us were near this platform and quickly grabbed our bags and boarded the train. We were lucky to get seats as the train was quickly filled with people standing on the islands.

We were on our way around 3:40 p.m.

As we headed west, my heart ached. I didn’t want to look at anyone. I didn’t want to leave Kiev, my second hometown after Crimea. My daughter and my mother worried about me.

An hour later, I tried to smile, and they seemed relieved. There were a lot of children in our car. A woman sitting next to us was shaking. She was from Irpin, where civilians had been killed that day. “I couldn’t imagine that I could survive,” she told us.

Zakhida's mother and daughter are sleeping
Zakhida and her family arrived in Lviv around 3 a.m. Monday morning [Courtesy of Zakhida Adylova]

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