How did it all start?
On February 24, I heard the explosions and immediately called my parents, who were in Mariupol at the time. No one expected it to be so serious. The blockade began. My parents could not leave.
Dad helped to mothball the Ilyich plant (Mariupol Iron and Steel Works, the largest enterprise in the Azov region) so that it could be restarted later. My parents were under fire, and explosions were heard when they called on the phone.
Later, they went to a village (40 km from Mariupol) where they hoped to wait it out. In that house they had everything they needed for life... but the Russian army came. The occupiers gathered all the Ukrainian men and asked them to sign documents for voluntary service in the DPR army, after which they immediately decided to leave. They had to go through 28 Russian checkpoints. It was very difficult, and the only thing that saved them was that it was raining heavily and the Russians did not check the cars much. At that time, my father was thinking that he was responsible not only for his life, but also for the lives of 3 women who were in the car with him and, in case of emergency, would not be able to do anything. Fighter jets were flying overhead, bombs were exploding very close, the blood was running cold in my veins.
What left the biggest imprint on your memory?
They shot 14 Ukrainian soldiers on the highway, who were under the sun for several weeks and no one could take them away, but when the situation improved a bit, the fighting stopped, my cousin's grandfather and other men took the bodies and buried them properly, as it should be.
How did you contact your parents/relatives?
At that time, there was only one mobile operator in the DPR, Phoenix. There was almost no connection. My mom would call her friend from Donetsk who used the same operator, my friend would call me from another phone, turn on the speakerphone on both phones, and that way I could hear my family.
I couldn't contact them whenever I wanted to, as their connection was only on a hill, 20 kilometers from the village. There were periods when they couldn't call and I was in constant stress because I didn't understand what was happening there and whether they were alive at all.
When my parents left Mariupol, the next day a cluster shell hit our house and the nine-story building burned to the ground. I saw my apartment burning, and my neighbors sent me this video. They were sitting in the house across the street, with the windows and doors smashed, and only one candle burning. You remember how it all looked in peacetime, and when you see it now, you just can't believe it.
I'm grateful to fate that my family is alive, that's the main thing!
How did you leave Ukraine?
Katia contacted me; we weren't close, but the war was uniting everyone at the time. She offered to go to Germany, and I agreed without hesitation. I realized how much I could benefit our country by gaining knowledge that would be extremely useful in rebuilding Ukraine after the war.
It took us 2 days to get to the border because of the terrible traffic jams near Bila Tserkva. There was no gasoline, it was only 70 kilometers away, and by some miracle we reached a gas station and replenished our fuel supplies. We stopped for the night in Lviv and continued our journey. We knew that people stood at the border for 2-3 days, so we decided to park the car 10 km away and just walk. Accidentally getting into the priority line (for the elderly and children), we crossed the border very quickly.
My mother shared the contact of her classmate who had lived in Poland for a long time and we contacted her, she picked us up from the border and brought us to her home in Warsaw. I was surprised that people who hadn't talked to each other for decades were willing to do anything to help your child. I admire the openness, sincerity and friendliness of our people.
From Warsaw, we went to my father's friend Katia, who had long ago moved to Germany, to a village near Hechingen, and lived with her for six months.
Was it difficult to assimilate?
In Ukraine, I studied at Taras Shevchenko University, Faculty of International Relations. It was very easy for me to enter.
An interesting fact is that when the first weapons arrived in Ukraine, it was our students who were involved in translations and establishing communications.
I'm currently on a sabbatical and plan to withdraw, because it's impossible to study at two universities of this level in parallel.
What documents did you submit for admission?
⁃ certified translation of school transcripts
⁃ certified translation of the transcript of grades from the university
⁃ language certificate (duolingo was not accepted, so I took IELTS)
I was lucky, because I had previously applied for an exchange program in the United States and therefore, all my documents had already been translated and certified. My documents were used as an example for the other girls who applied.
In order to enter a university in Germany, you needed one completed year of study at a Ukrainian university, which we did not have. We got out of the situation by providing a certificate stating that we would definitely finish the first year and an extract of grades for the first semester.
How did you find accommodation?
We looked for housing on our own, on various platforms, and also contacted the university directly, and they helped us.
Do you receive funding during your studies?
We didn't know about the possibility of receiving a scholarship from the university, so we registered for Baf (a government loan, part of which must be repaid after a certain period of time).
Do you like studying here?
I like it very much, and the difference with the Ukrainian university is enormous. In Ukraine, the subjects were more general, but here, we go deeper and look at every aspect of business in detail. It's incredibly interesting, I'm thrilled. Also, abroad, it is important to acquire practical knowledge that you will use in the future, which is an advantage.
What are your plans for the future?
Frankly speaking, it makes no sense for me to return to Ukraine in the next 10 years. The country is in a state of stagnation and economic instability, so I would like to stay abroad. In the future, I have plans to open a business in Ukraine and pay taxes and help.
There are already many projects to restore Mariupol, and my parents and I are trying to take part in them, and we dream that we will soon come to our Azov Sea.
Do you have any advice for future students?
Remember the work of Tigrolova "Happiness helps the brave"
If you know that you can do something for your country, you should use this opportunity.
Don't be afraid to take risks, because changing your life is always for the better!