I loved our life in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. My husband Willem works there for an international agricultural company, and our children Elise, 10, and Tegus, 5, went to a Ukrainian primary school. I enjoyed the pure nature of the land and nature, the friends and acquaintances we made, and the sense of adventure the four of us experienced here. Elise and Tess were comfortable in their own skin, and Willem was enjoying his work. But a week and a half before the outbreak of the war, we decided to go temporarily to Holland.
All the news about the threat from Russia made me worried. Willem took us to the family in Friesland by car and returned to Lviv by plane to continue working on the farm. We’ve been looking at the situation for a while and eventually come back with the four of us. We thought he’d probably still be a war threat. So it was very surreal when I got a message from Willem at five in the morning: “Ukraine is under attack,” he wrote. The war was real. He was sitting there and the kids and I were sitting here. I had to pretend to be Elise and Tiggs, but my heart was racing like crazy.
The airspace was closed, so Willem was unable to return by plane. Meanwhile, the children received lessons online. They saw classmates crying and teachers stood in front of the camera in a panic. I wanted him to come to Holland as soon as possible, even if he had to cross the border on foot. But William stayed in Lviv for a while in order to arrange the management of the farm where it works as well as possible. I felt like he was letting people down there by leaving.
He stayed there for another three weeks. The children missed him more and more which made him sad. “I have to go home, to my family,” he concluded, and a colleague took him for a while. As soon as he texted me that he crossed the border safely and left the war zone, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulder.
Friends who fled and those who stayed
We came to Holland with one suitcase and some emergency documents, because we approached them as a kind of vacation. Children now go to school here. Theis regularly asks “When are we going home again?” He misses his friends, his toys and his bike. It is difficult for a child to suddenly leave everything behind. Now we have to get our lives back on track here. I am horrified by the news reports I see in the news of civilian deaths. I turn my eyes away from her, while at the same time I do not want to turn away from the suffering that takes place there. I feel so guilty about the people there, but there’s nothing I can do. Many of our friends and acquaintances ran away, others stayed, but almost everyone feels depressed or depressed.
Back to Ukraine
After a while, Willem decides to return to Lviv and now works on the farm again. Sees how the environment has changed. The charm of our town in Eastern Europe has completely disappeared. There are now roadblocks, air raid shelters, checkpoints, trenches and airstrikes all over the city. Why not leave everything behind, someone else might think. But all his heart and soul are on the farm he has been working on for years. It is now more important than ever that the potatoes go into the ground and can be harvested later. Food supplies are in great danger and Ukraine is far from home.
One day William called me and said: There are no more vegetables, fruits, and bread in the supermarket. All shelves are empty. Can’t we do something together from Holland? I asked for a list from the Ukrainian government showing which items were in short supply. In addition to food, were clothes, sleeping bags, and mattresses. People were lying on the floor in the emergency shelter. Twenty minutes after posting a message on Facebook calling for this sort of thing, The first cars were already heading to my in-laws’ yard.Three days later, their warehouse was completely swollen.
My husband and I arranged the logistics, and my mother-in-law was organizing everything around. In the end, in cooperation with the transport companies, we were able to send a full eighteen trucks to Ukraine, where humanitarian relief organizations could sort and distribute the goods. We are still collecting the goods that are needed. Meanwhile, Willem is busy making sure that potatoes can be grown in Lviv. When that is ready, he can come temporarily to the Netherlands.
We try to find our way around the best we can, even though our lives have been turned upside down and we now live in an uncle’s house in a town where we don’t know anyone. I can continue my practice as a hormonal therapist here. I also go out a lot, and walk outdoors to relax a bit. Now that Willem is there and I’m here with the kids, I can’t stand that I’m not feeling well. Where this is heading and how long this situation will continue remains uncertain. It wasn’t different for a while, but I miss our sweet family life and the kids miss their dad.”