Ceramic male figure dressed in white shirt (Vyshyvanka) with red belt and blue pants. Men’s traditional dress in Ukraine includes an embroidered shirt with sharovary pants (very wide, belted on the waist and collected at the bottom near the ankles)
Location: Eastern Europe
Main language: Ukrainian
Construction: ceramic bank
Height in Centimeters: 23
Height in Inches: 9
Reading Level: 6.50
My name is Itka, and I belong to a very proud Ukrainian family. My parents used to enjoy dressing up for Vyshyvanka Day. It was a festival where people wore traditional Ukrainian costumes. For example, the men would wear a white shirt with many designs (called Vyshyvanka). They also wore baggy pants (usually blue) and a silk sash around their waist. The festivals were such fun!
Then, in 2022, without warning, the Russian army invaded Ukraine. You see, Ukraine used to be a part of Russia. However, when the Soviet Union split up in 1991, Ukraine became an independent country. Thirty years later, Putin, Russia’s president decided he wanted Ukraine to be part of Russia again. The Ukrainian people are fighting hard so that does not happen.
Now, instead of festivals, our lives are full of missiles and explosions. At first, the war seemed far away, and I went to school as usual. Then, one night, I woke up as explosions shook our apartment. My mother screamed, grabbed a blanket, and we ran to the stairs. The stairwell was full of frightened neighbors and crying children. We all hurried as fast as possible to the basement.
There was no electricity and all that I can remember is a man with a flashlight telling us to remain calm and quiet. I doubt if I will ever forget the horror of explosions and thunderous sirens. Just to be safe, we stayed in the basement all night.
The next morning, we could see destruction everywhere. Fire engines with screeching engines raced in almost every street. Some store windows were demolished. Ambulances were
transporting those injured to hospitals. The movie theater was in flames. The police were trying to keep order. It was a complete mess.
That night, my parents told me they were considering many options. One of the missiles had hit my school, and there would not be any classes in the foreseeable future. It might be possible to learn remotely, but access to the Internet was very spotty. Some of my classmates had already been sent to live in different countries. One possibility was that my parents would send me to live with my mother’s cousin in Germany. Another option was that we could all go live with my uncle in a remote part of Ukraine.
As they were discussing these options, I started to shake with fear and anxiety. I was only 11 years old, how could a war really disrupt my life so quickly?
In the end, it was decided that we would all go to my uncle’s farm. He lived in a remote area that was not a likely target for missiles. Also, the schools in his area were still open and relatively safe. I was happy with this decision because I was not looking forward to going alone to a different country where I did not know the language. My parents made it clear, however, that if things got worse, the next step would be to send me to Germany.
Without delay, we packed up a few belongings and headed to my uncle’s farm. When we got there, my father made another announcement – he was going to join the Ukrainian army. He explained that his brother agreed to take care of me and my mother while he was gone. A week later, he left. His last words were, “When we drive Russia out of our country, I shall return.”