Yulia, a Ukranian mother who fleed into Poland offers another perspective on the war

 Every mother wants the best for her children, but not all are put in a position to give it to them: poverty, disease, abandonment... are all factors that prevent this natural maternal tendency. So, too, war, perhaps the worst possible impediment. In remembrance of the suffering of so many war-affected mothers around the world, who mourn for themselves, their children, and their families, we share today the testimony of Yulia, a Ukrainian mother, who was at least lucky enough to be welcomed and supported by the Salesians of Poland.

"On Feb. 24, 2022, my life, the lives of my family members and a great many Ukrainians were tragically changed. A terrible war was being brought to our country... We each had our plans for that day, but nothing went as planned," began the woman, a mother of two little girls.

The announcement of the outbreak of war comes to her when she wakes up, from her father - elderly and ill - like a bolt out of the blue, on a day that outwardly seemed serene and sunny. Yet, so it is: she hears the president's speech introducing martial law and sees images of the first missiles falling on the country.

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In an initial family confrontation, one wonders about the moves to be made immediately. "Going to the store. At that moment, the most important thing seemed to be finding food. Meanwhile, the continuous stream of news about the war did not allow me to calm down, and the sound of sirens and alarms seemed to echo continuously inside my head. I didn't know what to do, but I had quite a responsibility: two daughters and an elderly parent with many ailments," said the young mother, who also details the anguish of the first few nights spent practically awake.

And then the interminable moments lived in the cold basements, with neighbors, elders, and animals next to them, who day after day become like family, with whom to share the fear of the noise of a Russian plane and the vibrations of an explosion that is not only felt on the glass, but shakes the whole building. "And you don't know how this noise will end for your family," she continues.

Surrounded by a destroyed school, the hospital with broken windows, and mutilated surrounding buildings, Yulia is constantly receiving escape advice from relatives and acquaintances. "Yet inside you feel a strong resistance, because you don't want to leave," she explains.

Then on March 8, 2022, in the evening, a colleague she holds in high esteem calls her on the phone and says," Yulia, you are going to Poland tomorrow with your family. I'm not asking if you want to, but I'm telling you; you're going." Thanks to the Salesians working at the local school, Yulia finally leaves and arrives in Poland the next day. "Calm down, you are safe now," are the first words she hears from the border guard on Polish territory. "I can breathe a sigh of relief at last," the woman continues, "but it is only external calm. Because in our hearts there is war."

So many months later, a guest now in a new country, Yulia concludes by telling what this forced exile means now. "When you leave your home, you miss the little things that are just yours: you miss your children's favourite toy, your favourite home-made dress, and finally you miss your own mess, which is sometimes made by children. You miss your relatives, friends, colleagues and work terribly. And I was afraid to call, write messages. I was afraid of what if he didn't answer the call or message would mean something terrible."

With thanks to ANS for this story