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Transit destinies. 10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 5

Transit destinies. 10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 5

Two years ago all of us got new neighbours. New moms with perambulators. New senior ladies in queues. New shop assistants in a shop nearby. They were internally displaced persons looking for peace in strange cities. IDPs who sometimes bore the stigma of  “poorly-educated Donbas marginals”. The truth is they are different...

Vira Reshetnyak-Zvyahyntseva

The Snow Maiden on the rear sit of the car is dandling a baby. Father Frost, who is sitting in the front, is singing a lullaby about a turtle who was sitting in the sand. One-year-old Lyubomyr is falling asleep listening to his dad’s voice. He was born here, n Kyiv. When his mom and dad together with his brother and sister were leaving Luhansk “just for a couple of weeks”, no one was aware of the fact that there already were three not two children in the family. And no one knew that “two weeks” would take months and then years.
New Year is the time of wonders. In many flats, children are waiting for magic sitting near decorated New Year trees. They are learning poems and carols by heart and want to take photographs sitting on the magician’s lap. Father Frost and the Snow Maiden can do wonders. They do not care if these will be wonders for one child or for several ones — they are equally sincere with everyone and it looks like they are never tired.



Lyubomyr, the smallest dwarf, spends all day with them.  While his mom and dad are dancing around endless New Year trees, he is calmly waiting on mom’s friend’s lap downstairs, because there are no fairy tales where Father Frost and the Snow Maiden had a dwarf son. Later, when they are going to next children by taxi, Luybomyr drinks his mother’s milk and listens to his dad’s lullabies, just like any other child...



Actually, the Snow Maiden’s name is Vira and Father Frost’s name is Zhenya. Of course, they did not always use to be Father Frost and the Snow Maiden. Zhenya was a computer programmer and Vira was a fashion designer. Long before the war they helped organize celebrations for children. Later, they found a team and made up to nine-hour-celebrations for children and adults.

When they arrived in Kyiv, they were hoping to wait for a week or two till everything calmed down in the east of Ukraine. They took a couple of costumes just in case they would have to stay longer, to be sure that they would be able to earn their living if there would not be a possibility to come back home. Later, while the postal service was still working there, they managed to send some more costumes to Kyiv. All the costumes had been designed and made by Vira herself. “Mouse from a Tram” and “Dyudyuka Barbidoska” moved to Kyiv. “White Cat”, “Masyanya Bumblebee” and more than three hundred other costumes and all kinds of clowns are waiting for better times in a locked changing room in Luhansk.

Here, in Kyiv, they have to economise on practically everything. The only thing where spending is not cut is extra-curricula classes and circles for their children.  Besides one-year-old Lyubomyr, there are two more children, Tymofiy, who is six and Daryna, who is nine. Their oldest daughter dances in Virsky group. She used to go in for dancing back there, in Luhansk, and they were extremely lucky that she was able to continue in Kyiv. 

Vira was hoping to attend the concert of the group in “Ukraine Concert Hall” till the last moment. But five hundred hryvnyas per ticket is too much for the Snow Maiden with three children.

It is hard to explain this, but no matter how difficult their present life is, and despite the fact that they cannot afford so many things, they smile and they are happy. And they make others happy. When you look at them even without theatrical make up, you start to believe in Father Frost.

Maryna Lyuta

Probably, it all started with her family... Maryna’s grandmother was studying the Ukrainian language and culture and communicating with “generation of the 60s”  (Ukrainian dissidents). Maryna’s mother was dreaming about ballet.  She organized a dance studio in the village and made gauze ballet tutus for girls. She also wrote songs and played in a Ukrainian folk ensemble. She did not just like Ukraine, she was madly in love with it, with its culture, traditions, history. Of course, she passed it over to others.



Maryna dreamt about entering Kyiv-Mohyla Academy or National University named after Taras Shevchenko. Of course, she would have succeded, as she was the best pupil and got a school-leaving certificate with honours, but she did not have money even for a ticket. This is why she stayed in the Donbas and worked as a laboratory assistant or as a locksmith. She also launched a dance circle for amateurs in Siveridonetsk. A locksmith and a ballerina, two in one. She used to write a lot as well because she wanted to be a journalist.

One day, her daytime dream came true and she took part in a contest of a Lysychansk  local newspaper which was looking for new people and fresh ideas. A radio, a newspaper, a possibility to learn and to develop, all this took place many years ago in 2007. When Maidan started in Kyiv, this newspaper remained the only tiny island where people did what they could do to struggle.

Maryna used to wear her headphones all the time outside then as she did not want to hear what people were talking about around her. And people were afraid. They were scared of merciless “banderivtsi” and they had no idea that those “banderivtsi” lived next door, conducted ethnical festivals, wore and made vyshyvankas (Ukrainian traditional embroidered shirts) and sang Ukrainian folk songs. It was not happening in remote and scary Kyiv, it was right nearby in Lysychansk.



One day her headphones broke down when she was on a bus between two towns. Maryna got off it as she could not hear all those people on the bus who were full of hatred to Ukraine and wanted a war.
A couple of days later there was Maidan in Rubizhne which she helped to organize. And a little later first checkpoint “to protect our land from banderivtsi” appeared.  The town got full of fear. She was moving around by taxi and shutting little Lastusya’s mouth with her palm. Later, in Kyiv, her daughter kept asking her: “May I speak Ukrainian here, mom?”  For the next eighteen months she would constantly draw those people who were tying her dad up to a tree...

They left three days before he town was seized. It was difficult to get on the train and people surrounded them so that they could leave without being captured. Rybak had already been killed and

Chernyavsky as well.

During the first month they were living in a hotel in Kyiv. Yaroslav Babych from “Azov” Volunteer Battalion helped them. Later, he was killed under unknown circumstances when he returned home from the war. Then they lived at friends’ who were activists of Maidan here, in Kyiv. Then, they managed to find some accommodation.

The state did not give her family the status of internally displaced persons because  her husband had been born and grown up in Kyiv. No one cares how many years he lived in the Donbas. Later, Rubizhne was liberated and it was possible to come back home. If you wanted to return, of course.
“I envy Kyiv residents so much. Everything is so simple here. You cannot even imagine, what we have to do there, in the east of Ukraine, not to go mad. We have to beat the sky with our heads there”.

Transit destinies. 10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 1

Transit destinies. 10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 2 

Transit destinies. 10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 3

Transit destinies.10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 4

Lesya Lytvynovа, TV director, coordinator of centre for IDPs (Frolovska str., 9/11), Co-founder of “Svoi” Charity Fund, migrants.zn.ua

New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of five articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout.  You can subscribe here.

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