Ekaterina: “I really want to go home, but I have nowhere to go”

25-year-old Yekaterina Šamajeva came to Klaipėda last October from Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, which became part of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic on July 25. At the beginning, she worked as a manual laborer in Utena and Alytus, and then decided to move to Klaipėda, where she temporarily found a job in a factory.

The girl can’t sit idly by because she was forced to leave her home because of the war, and her boyfriend from Ukraine can’t leave. Her apartment burned down and her friend’s apartment was robbed by marauders. Now she has to learn to live in a foreign country and work hard to survive.

“For the past four years, I have been working in a food delivery service in Ukraine. The day before the start of the war, February 23rd, we were at work watching TV and discussing the news that the invasion was being prepared. We joked that it was time to pack our bags, – the Ukrainian woman began the story. – The next morning, at 4 o’clock, a soldier I knew called me and told me to get ready, because the bombing would start in a couple of hours. I just laughed – what a war, especially in Severodonetsk, after all, we are all Russian speakers”.

At 6 o’clock, Ekaterina heated up her coffee and started getting ready for work, when an explosion was heard outside and the windows of the apartment began to shake. Remembering the same shootings in 2014, when she was only 14, she and her friend hid in the bathroom.

“I got scared, I called my dad, who lives in another district of Severodonetsk, to come pick me up. My boyfriend and I moved into his house and spent a week there before the bombing started there too. And a week later, they destroyed our apartment where we lived. My dad saved us”, Ekaterina continued the story.

She made sure of this when she returned home to get warm clothes when she saw a pile of rubble at the site of her apartment.

“An explosive device was left right at the entrance, the balcony and windows were without glass, the wall in the kitchen was broken, but I somehow managed to find some clothes under the pile of rubble. I left the apartment, I think, forever,” said the girl.

She returned to live with her parents, but it became increasingly dangerous to stay in Severodonetsk.

Severodonetsk. Ekaterina’s photo.

“People were locked in their homes because it became dangerous to walk on the streets. Even going out to smoke or fetch water could kill you from shrapnel. There were many dead people who were buried right next to their houses because people were afraid to go to the cemetery. In the summer, my uncle also died in a similar way. He lived in the basement for a long time, and when he went outside to look around, he was hit by shrapnel. At first, they buried him in the yard, but after some time there was an opportunity to rebury him as a person in the cemetery,” the girl continued.

There was a shortage of food in the city – some shops were closed, others were ravaged by marauders. Her father started transporting food from Western Ukraine, and when he returned, he gave some to neighbors for nothing. Volunteers delivered food to other residents of the city.

On March 19, she and her boyfriend managed to leave Severodonetsk for the Lviv region. There, good people left them a house, asking only to pay utility bills. Mother, father and grandfather refused to leave at first. He could not contact his mother Ekaterina for a month and a half, because there was no communication with them, and he met his father when he brought products.

Yekaterina’s house in Severodoneck.

“My mother finally decided to leave in May when the garage next to their house caught fire due to gunfire and everyone ran out to put it out. In the yard, the rocket caught up with my mother – when she ran back to the apartment, the shock waves made it impossible to close the door. Then she was very scared and also came to Lviv. And the grandfather remained like that”, – the Ukrainian woman shared her memories.

Yekaterina’s father also remained in Ukraine, only moving to Zaporozhye. It continues to transport food from western Ukraine, and before the war it carried passengers. Dad charges a minimum amount from people for food because, according to him, people don’t have money anyway. Before the war, he had two minibuses, now only one remains.

In August, already after Russia occupied Zaporozhye, he asked the passengers to get out because of everything while going back in the queue at the checkpoint at night, and in the morning the shooting started and the minibus burned down along with the passengers’ belongings. This is how Ekaterina’s father managed to save quite a few people.

In Western Ukraine, a girl could not find a job in three months. She ran out of money and decided to look for work in Lithuania. At the same time, she wanted to get away from the war and the negative thoughts it caused.

“My friend found an advertisement on the Internet that there are vacancies in the factory in Utena. After that, we met another Ukrainian woman, who invited us to go to Alytus to pick blueberries and strawberries. In October, after the season ended, we came to work in warehouses near Klaipėda. I worked there until winter, when my mother came to visit me. I could not stay in the company dormitory, because my mother would not have had a place to live. We both moved to Klaipėda, where we rented an apartment. At the moment, I am looking for a new job again, and my mother got a job in a vegetable warehouse. That’s how I travel around Lithuania”, said Ekaterina about her job search.

The girl does not like these constant moves, she dreams of returning home, but has nowhere to go.

“I think I’m not doing well here because it’s not my land, it’s a foreign land. I want to go home, but the apartment my boyfriend and I lived in in Severodonetsk is gone, and the city itself belongs to Russia. Our city was beautiful, prosperous, and now there are only ruins. 90% destroyed. residential houses. It will take many years to rebuild the city. In any case, I will still return to Severodonetsk, but not to live, but to make sure that there is no way back,” the girl ended the conversation with a sad sigh.

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The article is in Lithuanian

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