"I left Kyiv with a heavy heart, but it was easy for me to return."

I met Katerina in the protest area where they gather every day in Istanbul. Katerina is a 24-year-old girl living in Kiev. They had come to the rally with her older sister and her little children. The slogan that the children carry in their hands, "Why should Ukrainian children die?" caught my attention. When She accepted my request to speak, I made my interview. We met again in the meeting area on my later visits. After the interview, I found out on her Instagram page that her family had returned to Ukraine, and said, "I asked why they came back. He replied in writing. I also share the beautiful posts on the Instagram page with permission to use them.

The story of her first arrival in Istanbul:

 "I came to Istanbul on March 20th. My aunt has been living here about 8 years, but her nine-year-old daughter was staying in Mykolaiv (in the south of Ukraine) at the beginning of the war. My mother and my eight-year-old brother also were in Mykolaiv. My mom, my brother, and my sister were living in Mykolaiv. I live in Kyiv. My mother, sister, and brother came to my aunt in Istanbul at the end of February fleeing the war. By train to Lviv, from there to Moldova and Istanbul. Their journey to Istanbul took 30 hours. It became very unsafe in Mykolaiv due to constant shelling. Our father stayed in Mykolaiv like thousands of other men in Ukraine. I did not want to leave Kyiv, but one night a rocket hit the house across the road and the pressure from my loved ones intensified. My boyfriend packed my suitcase and put me on the train. Because I was in a state of complete despair. I felt like a part of me was dying. When I left the city, I entrusted my cat to my boyfriend. We all live together in a two-room apartment: me, my aunt, my mother, sister, brother, and two dogs. I`m working, studying, training, walking with my dog, attending rallies, and exploring Istanbul a bit after the rallies. My mom is cooking for us and takes care of the apartment we live in. Also, my mother and aunt are spending a lot of time with the children. My sister and my brother are studying online via zoom with their teachers from the school they went to in Ukraine. We read the news feed all the time. We are constantly supporting each other and our relatives and friends who remain in Ukraine. We help our army and charitable organizations financially. Because of the war, I lost my main job in marketing, but now I earn what was previously my second job. I conduct stretching and back health training for my clients from Ukraine (but out of 11 of my clients, only 3 have the opportunity to train now). And I think about how to scale up my work in order to be able to provide for myself, and my loved ones and support the Ukrainian army. My mom was a housewife. I was working in the interior design studio doing everything related to marketing. I was also conducting stretching, dancing, and back health training online and in person. I had a mini-studio right in my apartment. Our father lives under constant shelling in Mykolaiv in our apartment there. My boyfriend is staying in Kyiv and working, but this is also under the loud explosions from the outskirts of the city. They say that they are doing great, but we can't help but worry about them all the time. Many of our relatives have already lost their homes. Many of our acquaintances and friends are in the territorial defense or the army. But we all have one thing in common. This is an unconditional belief. I will be happy to start doing more for my country to rebuild it after the war. I will definitely spend more time with my family and close friends, because I realized that love can really save us."

Why I Came Back To Ukraine?

"The short answer is that this is where I belong. I returned to Kyiv after the Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv region. There is now a huge wound: Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel, Borodyanka and dozens of other small towns. Kyiv is now safer than it was at the beginning of the war, since there are no active hostilities near it. Safer, but not safe. There are still rocket attacks. We have an air raid alert several times a day. Even now I am writing this during an air raid. But we as humans can get used to everything, no matter how terrible it sounds. But it is very interesting that I am calmer here, despite the war, than outside of Ukraine. I left Kyiv with a heavy heart, but it was easy for me to return. I was so happy to hug my boyfriend, hug my cat, lie down in the middle of my room on the floor and feel that I'm home. Everything is native here. It warms the heart. I have always considered myself as a citizen of the world, but now I feel a connection to my land. It energizes and inspires. I want to see my loved ones here. I want to be here to support the Ukrainian economy by buying our products, earning money here and paying taxes. I want to hear Ukrainian when I buy coffee. I am aware of the danger of this decision. I realize that it could become so dangerous again that I have to leave. And I realize that the opportunity to leave may no longer be. But humans are essentially very irrational creature. And we, who returned to Ukraine, sacrificing basic security, are proof of this. But the heart can not be deceived."

Instagram Notes

"Istanbul is a city I can't get to as an ordinary tourist. Five years ago, I came to Istanbul to work, and this year, fleeing the war, to save myself. Interestingly, at the beginning of winter, I thought about how cool it would be to come there for a week, rent a cozy apartment in the Asian part of Istanbul and walk around my favorite places that I already had.⠀ I wanted to look at my inner changes over five years from the perspective of one city. As a result, I realized not only what had happened in five years, but also what had happened since the beginning of the war. In total, it was as if ten years had passed.⠀ The biggest of them is changes in the understanding of life. It became clearer. I walk down the street and literally feel how alive the people around me, the trees, the oncoming cats, how alive I am.⠀ I want to observe more. It becomes easier to accept the current reality, because you are free from evaluations and the process of evaluating yourself, others, and even global processes. You just put it together like a jigsaw puzzle to see even more clearly.⠀ Thank you, Istanbul for four weeks of shelter and a field for self-reflection. I am happy to return and be in my native Kyiv. Glory to the Armed Forces. Thanks to this our returns are possible. When I arrived in Istanbul, the first week I was very frightened by loud noises, and the call to pray caused the anxiety that the air raid caused in Kyiv. But luckily I managed to get through it. I am sure that this will affect the psyche of everyone who lived under the explosions, but it is in our power to work it out. I will be happy to start doing more for my country to rebuild it after the war. I will definitely spend more time with my family and close friends, because I realized that love can really save us.

Today I was asked why I go to rallies in Istanbul, and I was finally able to explain it to myself too. First, the more obvious. People all over the world must understand that something terrible and inhuman is happening, started by Russia. And it will affect the lives of absolutely all people on the planet, it is already affecting. We must not let people in other countries forget this. Secondly, a very large number of countries have not imposed sanctions against Russia, Turkey is one of them. I don't really believe that Turkey will decide to introduce these sanctions, but at least we can reach out to ordinary people who can donate to humanitarian aid or the army of Ukraine. Thirdly, this is a manifestation of our unity, and the more we are, the better we are heard. And now about the personal. I came to Istanbul on the twentieth of March, after three weeks of constant airstrikes and explosions in Kyiv. The first thing that hit me on the head was the ordinary life here. The rallies have been a lifesaver for me for several reasons. Firstly, at rallies in the eyes of people, you see the same pain that is inside you. By sharing this pain, it is already easier to experience. Secondly, this is a good way to release the accumulated anger through screaming, instead of burying it inside or splashing it out on loved ones. Thirdly, it becomes a little easier from the fact that you at least do something. I understand that this is a drop in the ocean, especially among all the efforts of our superhumans who are now on the front lines of volunteers, but the more these droplets around the world, the more powerful this ocean. So don't be silent!"