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  • Writer's pictureMelody Wu

"Corrected by Sirens"

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Introduction by Jiye Back

"Corrected by Sirens" by Yulia Tziurik


Please note that going forward, our editors will add new installments to this blog series every other week, instead of every week. The next post will go live the week of May 28th, so stay tuned!

 

Introduction

On February 24th, 2022, Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in 2014. Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine, and heavy fighting broke out in several areas, including the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv. The invasion led to a rapid deterioration of the situation in Ukraine, with the Ukrainian military struggling to defend against the Russian advance. The international community condemned Russia's actions, with many countries calling for an immediate end to the invasion and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory.


The situation in Ukraine remains volatile, with sporadic clashes still occurring in the eastern part of the country. The United Nations estimates that more than 13,000 people have been killed in the invasion and millions have been displaced. Despite ongoing efforts to establish peace, the invasion has taken a devastating toll on the Ukrainian people. The United Nations estimates that more than 13,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced.


Among those affected by the conflict is Yulia Tziurik, a young Ukrainian who grew up in Khmelnytskyi, one of the largest cities in the Western part of Ukraine. Her childhood was filled with adventure and joy, including

traveling with her parents to different parts of the country and spending summers with her grandmother. Despite the relatively low salaries of her parents, Yulia and her family always had enough and never experienced poverty. Ukrainians, in her view, are resilient and progressive people who always find ways to make life easier for themselves. Yulia's story about her experience during the war sheds light on the strength and courage of the Ukrainian people and their hope for a life that is not “corrected (altered) by sirens”.


 

"Corrected by Sirens"

Art by Ayah Al-Masyabi

I lived like the rest of Ukrainians – I studied at university, complained about

homework, went dancing, spent time with friends, got lazy frequently, suffered

from unrequited love, and played sports enthusiastically. On February 24th, at 5

a.m. I got woken up by explosions ... along with everybody else. I started

googling. “At 4 a.m. Russia started a war against Ukraine”.


Who would have believed that such a thing is possible in the modern world!?

Probably no one, except for the ones who had already been planning the invasion

for a long time.


But we need to back up a little. On Monday, February 21st, I got back from my

parents’ place to the dormitory. When I left Khmelnytskyi, I had a feeling I would

be back soon, but I had no idea why at the time. I had a wonderful day with

friends. We were exhausted after a 3-hour dance practice and then walked about

20k steps throughout Kyiv. Alarming news started popping up around midnight.

Everyone slept badly, but then it just seemed like an attempt to freak us out.


On Wednesday it got worse. We were in a state of emergency. My parents said that

they wanted me to be close to them. I bought a ticket home for February 24th,

17:00. I spent the evening with my friend. Everything was calm. Until that

explosion. Until the beginning of the full-scale war.


I started panicking. I was afraid to stay alone. All my acquaintances who stayed in

the city lived far from me. I tried to hitch a ride home or to buy train tickets to go

sooner. There were no seats available. I heard around five explosions during that

hour. It turned out that it was the air defense. I was shaking. I tried to eat

something, but I couldn’t. In a bout of panic I sliced an avocado and left it on the

table. I can already imagine the stench I’ll find in my room when I get back.

“When” is the key word. I am sure that it will happen.


I packed up a suitcase and went to the railway station hoping to find a seat in a bus.

By a happy coincidence, there were several vacant seats in the bus at 7.30 and I was one of the first to come, so I got in... A lot of people weren’t able to do that. I

have never seen so many people at the Vokzalna station*.


After about two kilometers we got into a traffic jam opposite my Alma Mater –

Polytechnic University – and then opposite the Сentral Civil Registration Office. I

was crying. I wasn't afraid to die, but I was afraid not to see my Kyiv again – the

city of my soul, the city I love with all my heart.


We were in the traffic jam for around four hours. The driver decided to drive

around it. We drove through Bucha, now well-known all over the world. We saw

our soldiers on military vehicles, a warehouse set ablaze by the enemies. We were

about 60 kilometers away from the Belarusian border, and crossed two

interregional checkpoints. At around three o’clock I ate for the first time (good

thing I had some pancakes my mother had baked for me).


At that time I had no idea I was playing with death. I didn’t know what horrors

would take place in Bucha in several days. I didn’t know that very soon villages

along Zhytomyr highway and the highway itself would be turned into ruins. I

didn’t know that Zhytomyr had been bombarded two hours before our arrival. I did

not know the south of the country would be invaded and Mariupol would be fully

destroyed. Many things have changed since that time.


We learned about atrocities committed by the Russians on all territories that had

been liberated from them. We fought and got Kyiv, Sumy, and Chernihiv Regions

back. We signed a land lease. We did NOT close the sky. And much more.

Now I am home. My town welcomed more than 150 thousand people who were

forced to leave their homes. I can’t say that I do a lot, rather a minimum, but I calm

down, at least a little, when I start doing something useful. I gave away everything

I didn’t use much, toys and books. My mother and I bought necessary household

chemicals for the displaced residents. In the shelter – the place where displaced

persons may stay for several days – I learned how to change sheets in a matter of

minutes, cleaned and, above all, tried to provide moral support for the people who

came here.


As everybody else, I am learning to live anew. During the first days of the war it

was walks to the supermarket and back and things that were usual to me before–

keeping a dairy, learning English. Later I understood I wanted to do something else

and... started drawing a picture by numbers.


It was hard to start living with my parents again – we have forgotten each other’s

habits. No one expected that war would last for so long. On the first days I lived

with expectations that I was about to return to Kyiv. And now I simply live. I miss the city and its folk immensely. I’m afraid to see Kyiv in real life, but I am going to

return.


Life is filled with colors step-by-step. At first I started meeting with friends. Then I

found a part-time job and on weekends I was busy in a volunteer center. When I

got used to the sirens, I finally took time for myself – got my nails and eyebrows

done. It was so pleasant to return to my pre-war routine.


Settlements in our region are frequently bombarded, but the regional center itself,

fortunately, is still intact. There was an explosion in the suburbs once. Then I

remembered the feeling of 24th of February, that helplessness and brokenness. It’s

relatively calm now, if you can say so about a city where the sirens blare

constantly.


My main victory now is learning to live under new circumstances. I finally

understood the expression “I live one day at a time”. Now no one knows if

tomorrow will come. Now it is very difficult to let people go, even for a short time

and not far away.


Now it is much easier for me than several months ago. I understand that I simply

get used to the new reality. I just can't dream anymore. I have no idea how to go on

living. The longer the war drags on, the more questions arise about where to build

one's future. But I believe that I will find an answer.


I really miss the happy student life, the mornings with a cup of coffee with a friend,

the crazy rhythm of life, the people who have already returned to Kyiv, the

dancing, the view from the window of my room. Even glazed cheeses from

Ultramarket*. But it will definitely not be like before. When the war is over, I will

cry for a long time, then I will gather all my friends and we will celebrate the

victory. And then I will open my notebook and finally write a plan for the day. The

plan that will not be altered by sirens.


*Vokzalna station: metro station in Kyiv

*Ultramarket: supermarket chain in Ukraine


Translators: Yuliia Mitiushyna, Yuliia Murashova

Content Editor: Cynthia Wang

Blog Writer/Editor: Jiye Back

 






The Author, Yulia Tziurik










Interview with Yulia



 

Works Cited


"Ukraine crisis: Timeline." BBC News, 24 November 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26248275. Accessed 15 April 2023.


"Russia-Ukraine Conflict." United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/russia-ukraine-conflict/. Accessed 15 April 2023.


"Ukraine Crisis." Council on Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-ukraine. Accessed 15 April 2023.


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