She lived in an ordinary village and rarely went anywhere except for a few trips to Kiyv and twice taking the children to the sea in Kherson. There wasn't much time for traveling: two sons, a household, an old grandmother who couldn't walk anymore and everything depended on her and her mother. The Woman didn't complain - she liked getting up early in the morning and knowing how many tasks awaited her, so the trips didn't interest her much as long as everyone was fed and healthy.
When she heard that russian troops were in Ukraine, the Woman already knew that she wouldn't be able to leave. Her grandmother was very ill, the household was large, and there was no one to leave it to. But she sent the children to her cousin in Kyiv that same day. Even though it was nearby, it was still Kyiv - it would not surrender. It was scary - the children and the Woman were crying, but she managed to put them on a bus with their black cat, waved goodbye, and returned to her tasks.
At night, the village was shelled. It was scary. The Woman, her mother, and their pet dogs hid in a bunker. The next day it became clear that the russians would be there. The Woman was horrified, but her mother was happy, saying "Our people are coming!" the Woman argued, "What do you mean 'our people'?" - and her angry mother replied, "They'll come and show us! They'll restore order here!".
And the russians came. They walked through the houses, looked around to see who and what was there, and promised not to harm the locals. They asked if there were any Nazis among the locals. After that, the head of the village council and several men who had fought in the 2014th disappeared. But other than that, it was initially quiet. And then the russians started drinking, and the calm ended. At first, it was just rumored, but later it became clear that the occupiers were raping women.
Our Woman cried when she heard these stories, but her mother didn't believe it. One day, the soldiers drank all the alcohol in the store and went through the houses. They took everything they saw and, somehow, they ended up at the Woman's house. It was clear they were looking not only for alcohol but also for adventure. "Oh!" the elder pointed at her. "Are you a spy? We'll interrogate you now!" and dragged her to the barn.
The Woman doesn't remember what happened next. Or rather, she doesn't want to remember. Only that there were more than two of them and that they smelled strange - either of a burning house or dirty clothing. When she returned to the house - her mother avoided eye contact. From that day on, they never looked at each other again.
Currently, the Woman is abroad, waiting for her children to arrive. Sometimes, while walking down the street, she looks at all these houses like candies and can't believe she is here. However, there are many things she would never believe, and it hurts so much that her heart breaks. Then she writes to a psychologist and asks for a conversation.
In these conversations, they do not talk about her mother, but they talk about the past and the future. The Woman remembers a lot about the past in detail, but as for the future, she does not see it yet. After seeing the psychologist, she goes to the park to feed the ducks, admires them, and remembers hers - the ones that were taken by the military.
Her biggest dream is to return home, to stand barefoot on the warm ground and breathe in the air with the smell of grass and dry manure. But the Woman knows that she can never go back. Her home was destroyed, and she needs to build a new one in a new place. And she does it as best as she can. She got a job taking care of the elderly, just like she used to take care of her grandmother. She helps other women here: goes to the fair with someone, helps someone with arrangements, sews a skirt, and sits with a child.
The locals in her neighborhood already know her. The saleswoman in the market greets her, and the bus driver she rides to work with smiles at her. So, brick by brick, the Woman builds her new home.
This story is based on the experiences of real people who have suffered sexual violence by russian soldiers and are now on the path to recovery. Their stories were heard and retold by psychologist Svitlana. The heroes themselves are not yet able to speak. They need time and help. We hope the day will come when they will feel strong enough to testify to the war crimes committed by the occupiers on our land against our people.
The words from the song "V Mene Nemaye Domu" ("I Have No Home") by the Ukrainian musician band "Odyn v Kanoe '' are embroidered on the cloth.