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Maria Garazhenko


Olga V:  24 February. Tell me about this day. How did the war start for you?


Maria G: My husband woke me up at 5 am with the words "The war has begun!". I was in a panic and immediately began to pack our stuff, but there was no car and hence no opportunity to leave.


Olga V: What city were you in at the time?


Maria G: Dnepropetrovsk


Olga V: You couldn't leave. How long did it take you in the city before you leave the country?


Maria G: Almost three weeks.


Olga V: Tell me about those weeks. How did you manage to overcome all the difficulties?


Maria G: We found a basement in a school, took away all the trash from there, and transformed it into a bomb shelter. We created a common chat with our neighbors to control this basement and be in touch. We were constantly doing something so there was no time for panic and fear. It prevented me from going crazy... We volunteered, delivered necessities, and made Molotov cocktails, I constantly drew and collected donations for the victims of bombardments. In peacetime, I had a small Art shop where my artworks, drawings, souvenirs, and handicrafts were sold. I dedicated many drawings to my dog Corgi. After the outbreak of the war, I had the idea to draw patriotic Corgis, and donate the proceeds from sales to animal volunteers and nurseries. We've raised a pretty decent amount. I felt proud of myself and my dog. It was a pleasure to be of service during such a challenging time.


Olga V: How did you leave the country?


Maria G: My friends called me. They had space for me, my daughter, and the dog in their car. My husband and I decided that this opportunity should not be missed and at least three of us need to move to a safe place. We drove for a week. Slept and ate in the car. We were stuck in traffic jams for a very long time. Friends also had children. It was not easy, but the children somehow matured a lot on this trip. No one was capricious, there was an understanding of what is going on.


Olga V: Tell us about your typical day in Bansko (Bulgaria), what do you do to adapt and normalize your life and the life of your child?


Maria G: I adapted rather fast because when I left, I understood that this was a one-way ticket. I set myself up ahead of time. And now I don’t have constant expectations and stress from the fact that everything is dragging on. Many began to realize reality after a few months, I was initially ready for this. I moved without looking back. But only a few months later, I decided to turn off the app for air raid alerts.


Olga V: Yes, I know that many people have this application turned on, even when they live abroad, far from Ukraine


Maria G: Yes, many of us have the Air Raid application turned on because people are worried about their loved ones in Ukraine. I honestly don't understand what's the point. Useless stress and worries. How can you help? A crippled nervous system will not help anyone. That's why I disabled the app. I began to sleep way better. In Bansko, I started to practice meditation and yoga. This helps me a lot. My daughter has made new friends. She plays and laughs. It is very important for me. I see her happy and it makes me happy. Everything is pretty ok now, I thought it could be much worse.


Olga V: Do you miss your home and country?


Maria G: Of course! I love my country. I would have stayed if I had not had a daughter and most likely would have joined the army to fight. Such is my character. But I'm a mother and I don't want my child to live in fear now or in ruins when it's all over. Her life cannot be put on hold until better times, I am obliged to provide her with a happy and safe childhood.


Olga V: Do you miss your husband?


Maria G: Yes, sure. I miss him a lot but we talk almost every day. It helps. I often think about how people could live during World War II without being connected just writing letters and waiting for months for some news from the front. Now it's much easier. My husband is always in touch with me and we support each other. We are not together for the first time in 10 years and we don't know when we will see each other again. I try not to think about it. I want him to come over here as soon as possible, but for now, everything is as it is.


Olga V Do you want to add something else at the end of the interview?


Maria G: It shall pass! The war will come to an end. I believe good will prevail over evil. Sometimes it's scary and painful, but it seems we have this test for a reason. Then everything will be in our hands. We can build a new world. When it's over, we'll be better. I believe in it.

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