This post was written by Albina, who journeyed to Abruzzo with her Mother following the war in Ukraine. Here’s her account of life as a refugee that she kindly wrote after we had met her as part of our #CookForUkraine fundraising campaign. She is now in Poland supporting her Mother who needed to be closer to her homeland, friends and family. Lives are turned upside down during war and those most affected have to make the most difficult life choices.
Part of LifeInAbruzzo’s ‘Seen but not Heard’ series, our new attempt to give refugees and migrants a voice in the region.
All of us, humans, can be touched by something. Everyone has places, people, and things which make us feel. All these things build up an inner compass which helps us to move through life. Sometimes we feel attraction without even understanding why. That’s what I call karma or fate.
For some reason, I always liked the shape of a circle. It has a sacred meaning for me. I see the wholeness of life and its never-ending nature in this shape. So I put a small tattoo on my arm. It’s the same with colours. My favourites are red, white and green. Yes right, just as the Italian flag colours. That’s why I used to joke that it is my fate to live in Italy for some time. The irony is that now I am living in Italy.
Kyiv, February 20, 2022
On the 24th of February, at 5 am, I was on a bus going home from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. This day changed everything. My mum and friends phoned me simultaneously to tell me that «it» had began… When I reached my hometown, chaos had started: crowds at gas stations, alarms and empty store shelves. 9 days of desperately hiding in a school basement with my mum and neighbours including kids and their pets were only an outer side of reality.
At the beginning of March after a big threat in our region, my mum and me packed suitcases and left our house, our men, our friends to face the unknown…
I should say, that the safety of going abroad in terms of war is rather uncertain. The way we stood outside on the border with Poland for 16 hours on foot, together with an enormous crowd of thousands of people trying to save their children’s lives and carrying all the bags on themselves was something I will never forget.
Mothers begged to open the gate but no one responded for hours…It was the cost we all had to pay to protect our lives.
So our forced journey started in Poland, and we were blessed to meet so many kind-hearted people on our way, who provided us with everything they could starting with free transportation and accommodation and followed by any small or large help we needed. Unfortunately a family of strangers, later – our good friends couldn’t host us for a long time, so I started to look for other options to stay in Europe.
And I found a suggestion which made me feel I should accept it. And soon we took our 24-hour journey on a bus.
Entering Italy was a special experience. For most of our trip we passed the beautiful coastal towns and olive gardens. These landscapes with a great variety of blooming trees and flowers appeared to be so new and unusual to me. During a bright pink sunrise I realised, that spring is already here and it is so vibrant.
And that was just what we needed after experiencing a long and risky road when each mile felt so painful as our home stood behind…We needed the warmth and understanding which we received from our hosts and neighbours. A generous British couple living in Italy provided us with everything: separate accommodation, food and financial means as well.
That was the kindest meeting, which I will never forget. Cases like this make me continue to believe in the power of humanity, which is so essential in times of great violence…
So, our temporary home appeared to be located in the old part of Lanciano, a small town in Abruzzo region, in the medieval 3-layered building, which I personally find extremely cosy. 3 minutes on foot to the city centre, where an amazing basilica Madonna del Ponte is located. This one is personally my favourite, not only because of my faith but in the aesthetic aspect as well. So far, staying in Italy for 2 weeks, I have visited 6 churches. Most of them are very old and have a mysterious atmosphere of calmness inside…I should say, they are very different from Ukrainian Christian churches.
Each time I go to church, I pray for quiet days and nights for beloved people and the whole of Ukraine. And the sky of Italy is open for sincere prayers.
One of the most breathtaking temples we visited is called Abbazia di San Giovanni in Venere. You can literally enjoy the melody of silence there. The view from the territory of Abbey is mesmerizing – the Adriatic Sea from each side, old pines and fantastic cities just by the beach…
Fresh air in this region made my skin look perfect just in 2 weeks. Lanciano, surrounded by mountains, is a good place to rest from industrial pollution. The Majestic Maiella mountain captures my sight each time I see it.
Of course, being 2000 miles away from home is not always relaxing, even in lovely Italy…All the news and stories are read and heard every day and tears fall down so often. Still, we fight the evil in our minds and hearts, we have to, so after we win this war, there is power to help, to cure our country, to shine again. I can hear the echo of my homeland everywhere I go.
I hope no one has doubts that Russia is the true enemy of every country which has dignity and freedoms. So using this opportunity I want to ask everyone who reads this to keep the memory of victims in Ukraine and don’t let the truth
fade. Please don’t leave this subject away. The more we talk about it, the more we share, the sooner justice will happen.
Thanks for your time and I wish everyone to live in peace!