▲Kailin uses her own story to express the ruthless cruelty of war. (Picture/Courtesy of Tzu Chi Communication Humanities Foundation and Kailin)
My name is Karima Romaniv, my Chinese name is Kailin, and I was born in 1997 in Nova Kakhovka, Kherson Oblast, southern Ukraine. My father is Afghan and my mother is Ukrainian. In 1987, my 17-year-old father left Afghanistan to study in Belarus to escape the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. Within a year, he moved to Ukraine and settled down there.
I never expected that thirty-five years later, I, who was born in Ukraine, would not be able to escape the disaster of war.
The first wave of attacks begins
February 25th, the second day of the war. The news reported the capture of Novokakhovka by Russian troops, with only a few words stating that the city was “temporarily” occupied; the full picture of the situation was not discussed.
Even though everyone was telling me to stay put, I was still planning an escape from the tiger’s mouth. I really couldn’t sit at home, so I decided to go out and get something to eat. Looking around on the street, as long as the shops are still open, there are incredibly long queues of people at the door. I walked around, looking for cash machines everywhere, and my intuition told me that I still had a chance, so don’t give up. Finally, I actually found a cash machine in the market that still had money, and got another amount of cash.
Why do you need to receive so much money? Not only to buy food and daily necessities, but also to take my family out of the city, I had to buy a car and gas. In addition, the mobile phone signal in front of me is terrible, and it is difficult to get through the phone, so I can only communicate through text messages. I am worried that the network may be interrupted at any time, and it will be impossible to withdraw money or transfer money, let alone use a credit card to buy things! And if we escape to a remote area where the internet doesn’t cover us, we can only use cash. So I would take every penny if I could!
I got the cash, but I was happy but worried. I was afraid of being robbed. So I hugged my bag full of cash tightly to my chest and walked home quickly. As soon as I entered the house, my mother told me that there would be a bombing at one o’clock in the afternoon and that I had to take shelter in the air-raid shelter. “Our army is going to counterattack!”
I was so scared that I ate my hands! The two armies are fighting for this small town, which will inevitably bring disaster to Chiyu. We will all be dead when three missiles hit. Who can escape! What’s even more surprising is that this kind of message is quickly spread through the “interpersonal communication chain”. No air-raid warnings were sounded, no air-raid sirens sounded, but everyone was ready to rush to the dugouts. My mother and I quickly prepared food, warm clothes, quilts, and thermos bottles filled with hot water. We grabbed these things and ran! It only took twenty minutes from the time I entered the house, packed up my things, and arrived at the refuge. The panic in the process was not to mention.
Like many citizens, we finally arrived at our destination before “Mosandong Cave”. This is the basement where a good friend runs his store. When my mother and I walked down the stairs and entered, we saw many elderly women and children. I was surprised by the smiles on the faces of the elders – they were humming and singing, eating and drinking, laughing and joking leisurely, as if they were gathering for a picnic. These grandmother-level women have survived many crises in their lives, and some have even experienced the baptism of war. I think it would be too bad to hang down next to these seniors!
▲The basement became a place of refuge. After staying here for several hours, everyone was too cold to bear it. (Picture/Courtesy of Tzu Chi Communication Humanities Foundation and Kai Lin)
After sitting down, I started sending text messages to all my friends and relatives, telling them that my place might be bombed, and asking them to pray for me; if I lost contact, they would know that I had passed away. The replies and blessings from my friends make me feel warm.
It began – the death and carnage began, the explosions of heavy artillery. As I expected, the Russian army was not afraid. It was impossible for the Russian army to surrender just because the Ukrainian army counterattacked!
At this moment, I finally understandHow important is “faith” to a person?. Although I don’t go to church, I believe that there is a master power somewhere. In war, no one is an atheist. Even people who do not believe in God can only pray for God’s favor when they are in a hail of bullets.
I kept praying, praying that our army would not rain down bombs on us, let alone drop bombs on our own people. Because the Russian army adopted a cunning strategy and established a military stronghold in the city center, the ammunition depot was only about 200 meters away from the basement where we took refuge. Once the Ukrainian army counterattacked, we would become a “human shield”!
We could even hear them reloading their machine guns and shells. The Russian army prepared the multiple rocket launcher “Hail”. The thunderous sound and oscillation when fired by this heavy artillery strengthened the power of the attack. It not only frightened people, but also made their internal organs tremble.
▲The entire territory of Ukraine has been shelled, and homes have been transformed beyond recognition. (Photo/Tzu Chi Communication Humanities Foundation, photo by An Peixing)
The lady who kindly allowed us to take refuge in the basement, her son went out to “reconnaissance” from time to time, comforting and encouraging everyone. I saw the same fear in his eyes, but he was not controlled by fear, but overcame it. fear. I observed other men around me. Some of them were like this young man. The war inspired their instinct to protect and care for others. But I also saw that some men were unable to face the pressure, shock and loss caused by the war and fell into He was so depressed that he even drank to drown his sorrows. None of this is surprising; war affects everyone’s mental state.
The basement was bone-chillingly cold, so the young man brought an electric heater, hoping to keep everyone warmer. However, it was impossible to achieve the effect of heating a room, and it was more than enough to burn the skin. No one could bear to sit next to the electric heater all the time. After staying in bed for four hours, the heating failed to work. Everyone couldn’t sit still and wanted to go home. Several men went upstairs to check on the situation from time to time. I wanted to know what the situation was like, so I followed them up to take a look. The horrifying explosions were heard endlessly, and when we looked up, we could still see the light from the exploding grenades thrown high… We could only go back to the basement and continue hiding.
the longest night
Another hour passed, and it felt quiet up there. Everyone couldn’t hold it any longer, so they all left the basement and walked outside. It’s been five hours since I hid at one o’clock in the afternoon, and it’s already dark.
My mother and I thanked the young man’s mother for their hospitality. But just as I was crossing the road to go home, there was a sudden burst of machine gun fire, a large number of bullets flew past my eyes, and bursts of fire pierced the dark street… I shouted with all my strength:“Mom, run!”But her mother’s movements were as slow as a snail; just when she was about to hide on the spot, another hail of bullets roared past!
In the dark, I couldn’t figure out where these shots came from, so I could only grab my mother’s hand and drag her forward; but my mother’s legs seemed to be stuck to the ground, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t move them. In that moment, I saw a huge difference in how my mother and I reacted to the situation. When life is at stake, people react quickly and directly – I just want to live. My mother, who is more than 30 years older than me, is resigned to life and seems to be ready to face death. Perhaps this has nothing to do with age, but with different levels of desire to “survive”.Some people seem ready to die, while others are doing their best to survive.
▲Kaylin and her mother cuddled next to each other. (Picture/Courtesy of Tzu Chi Communication Humanities Foundation and Kailin)
Finally got home. Although my body was fine, a strong sense of panic began to overwhelm me. The two armies were fighting fiercely, and at this moment of danger, I understood that it would be extremely difficult to leave. A bullet could end my life at any time on the road. I was in a state of anxiety and sadness.
We are separated from our brothers and sisters. Although we have repeatedly told them to dress warmly and hide in the basement and never come out no matter what, now there is a fire net between us. Not only can we not see them, but we can’t contact them because there is no signal in the basement. I was extremely disturbed. At this moment of helplessness, I could only believe in my own strength – I prayed sincerely that God would build a protective shield for my brothers and sisters, preventing a single bullet or missile from shooting at them.
It was late at night, and I lay on the bed without changing into pajamas. I collected my important documents and cash in a small wallet and hung it around my neck. I also placed an “emergency safety suitcase” beside me. In this way, you are “fully armed” and alert. If there is any trouble, you can immediately rush to the shelter.
When I closed my eyes, my hearing became sharper. The explosions outside made my heart skip a beat, knowing that I might die at any time.Unprecedented fear sealed my body, and I curled up like a stone statue, motionless; but my mind kept thinking wildly – thinking that when there was an emergency and I had to “scurry”, at least I would have money and resources with me. Identity card; if I am unfortunately killed, the ID on my body can let people know who I am; I even thought about what I would do if I was captured by the Russian army and robbed of my money and documents… Everything in front of me makes people unable to expected, butMust face it truly. I imagined every possible situation and tried to find a way to deal with it.
Another sleepless night. I hugged my mother who was sleeping next to me and prepared myself mentally——This may be our last hug in this life, or our penultimate hug.Frankly speaking,I’m ready to “shut down” at any time.
▲Kailin, the author of “I Come from War-Ukrainian War Diary” wrote her own story and expressed her gratitude to every good person in her life. (Photo/Provided by Tzu Chi Communication Humanities Foundation)
◆This article is excerpted from “I Came from War – Diary of the War in Ukraine” written by Kailin (translated by Tzu Chi Communication Humanities Foundation/Pei Fanqiang). For more exciting content, please see the physical book and e-book.