Nataly and Olga Zhyr. History of forced relocation from Ukraine to France

During the 4 months of the war, Ukrainians Nataly and Olga Zhyr lived through all the stages of horror that can befall a person during the war: from complete numbness and fear for relatives to the thirst to live on and believe in the best, adapting to new conditions. What has changed in their lives and how they live through a difficult time — read further.

Hi, Natalia and Olga! How do you feel now? At the moment you are in a safe place — in France. Why did you choose this country?

Hi. Thank you, we feel now the same as all Ukrainians. We worry a lot for our country, stand firm, and wait for our victory.

A full-scale war found us at home, in Kyiv. We were awakened by explosions. At some point, we decided to leave Kyiv, because it became very dangerous. We won’t tell you about our journey from Kyiv, we’ll just say that it was really scary. The picture of the war, which our grandfathers told about, came to life.

We went to the west of Ukraine, being sure that in a couple of days we would return home. But, unfortunately, it was not possible to return home quickly. Our friends were in France and invited us to come here.

Of course, we are not able to fully enjoy the beauty of the Cote d’Azur now, because our heart is not in the right place. But we are very grateful to France and the French people for such support and warm welcome.

Share how long it took you to adapt to a completely new page of life.

Of course, it is very difficult at one moment to leave our home, our usual life, and move to another country. Especially when it is not a planned move, but a forced one due to hostilities. During the first months we, like everyone else, were in some kind of shock, we did not believe that this was happening to us. We can’t say that we adapted, we want to go home, like everyone else, but life goes on. We need to hold our ground for the sake of those who are now protecting our Earth and our lives.

When did you feel that you could live not a postponed life, but the one that is now? When did you realize that you had moved on from that feeling of total shock?

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It seems to us that only in the third month, thanks to the support of our friends, we finally realized that this was not a dream; the way it used to be will no longer be.

Of course, every day we read the news. Every day, like on the first day, the heart breaks with another rocket in Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa, Lviv, or any other Ukrainian city.

But we must hold on and help our country with everything we can. The Ukrainian people embody courage and resilience today. We cannot afford to lay down our hands.

How did you react to this news flow all these months? Did you go to psychologists? Or were friends and relatives your psychologists?

We believe that the best psychologists are the support of loved ones. Let’s not hide, sometimes the mood swings. Especially when we read about bombings in areas that we know very well. Sometimes, after some news, we are afraid to write to friends and relatives who are now in Ukraine. But this is our reality. We are for pulling ourselves together and doing everything in our power to make this nightmare end as soon as possible. Although sometimes it is not so easy, we can not hide it.

We were very inspired by the meeting with Elvira Gavrilova, an incredibly beautiful and stylish girl. She is an incredibly bright person who energizes everyone who is nearby, charms with her smile, and inspires to do good deeds! We are very grateful to Elvira for her support during this difficult time. The most important thing is that we feel confident in the future, faith in ourselves, in the fact that we are part of Ukrainian culture.

Tell us how you felt when the war started.

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We did not believe until the very end that this was really happening, although there were talks in Kyiv, many discussed that a war might break out. But we simply could not imagine that this is possible in the 21st century.

When we woke up from the explosions, there was hope that this was noise from a construction site, as a new shopping center was being built near our residential complex. But after another explosion, we realized that the construction site had nothing to do with it.

There was a feeling of complete vegetation and fear. We started calling relatives and friends. And then they already understood that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine had begun.

On the evening of February 23rd, we lived a wonderful life, full of plans, and early in the morning of February 24th, we were already looking for bomb shelters since the parking lots could not withstand the bombing.

Now there are many different forecasts about when everything should end. Do you read and believe this? When do you think victory will be ours?

We believe, firstly, that we have already won. Words cannot express how proud we are of our country, our people, and the fact that we are Ukrainians. We proved to the whole world that Ukraine is a country that cannot be broken and scared; it is a country that deserves a wonderful and happy future. And we will definitely have it. Very soon.


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What do you dream about after winning? Maybe you want something right now, something is missing?

The war showed us, like everyone else, that the most cherished dreams are very simple. We dream more than anything in the world to come home, to be close to relatives and friends again, to walk along any streets of Kyiv, to go to the sea to Odesa and drink coffee in Lviv. More than anything, we want people not to die and Russian missiles not to fly. We dream of hugging all Ukrainians in peaceful Ukraine.

Do you plan to return to Ukraine?

The question is not even worth it. Ukraine is our home, which we love very much. So it was, is and always will be.

We are in France temporarily. We are extremely grateful to this country, but we want to live at home. We really miss our country.

When the war began, many Ukrainians began to delve into history, and look for resources where they can learn about the struggle of the Ukrainian people for the right to be free. We tried to understand our identity, and also why it is so important to speak Ukrainian. Did you feel that you needed to know more about yourself as a Ukrainian?

Yes, definitely. We now communicate only in Ukrainian, we learn even more about our incredible culture. It is important to say that we are not doing this because it is necessary, but solely of our own free will. Because we love our country very much and we are proud of it.

We thank you for the conversation and hope that next time we can talk after the victory in Ukraine.

Thank you very much for your invitation, questions, and support. See you in peaceful Ukraine!

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