Ukrainian refugee women became the heroines of a book in Lithuanian: 16 stories about rescue from hell


“I sort of know what war is, but after reading this book, I realized that I really don’t know anything about war. This book erased the kilometers between Ukraine and Lithuania”, – this is how journalist Šarunas Cherniauskas began the presentation of the book “Iškrausiosi iš pragaro” at the Museum of the Ministry of Defense. 16 girls and women who escaped from Ukraine and found refuge in Lithuania decided to go through a painful experience – to go through their own battle again, according to the press release of the “Alma littera” publishing house.

The book presentation was attended by the author of the idea, the artist Lina Shlipavichute, the author of the texts, journalist Palmira Galkontaite, and the heroines of the book – musician, teacher of the art school from Irpin Alla Cheres and engineer from Kryvyi Rih Alyona Timonina.

The idea of ​​painting women who left Ukraine for Lithuania and telling their stories was for the artist Lina Shlipavichyute a natural reaction to the war that started in Ukraine. The artist wanted to create an environment that would allow her to tell stories – testimonies of people who suffered from war and were forced to leave their country, who are looking for their place in a new reality, in a new country.

“The war derailed, hit the brains, caused a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, it seemed that it was necessary to listen, observe, record here and now, when everything is so alive, happening right now. I was looking for the most sensitive, closest to me way to establish a connection, to hear another person. Drawing portraits became such a way for me. I chose quick sketching, live interaction with the models, because it allowed me to capture the feeling, to convey this emotion of being together. For me, this process helped overcome feelings of helplessness. And communicating with these strong women and girls gave me even more hope.”– said the artist at the presentation of the book.

Presentation of the book “Iškrausiosi iš pragaro” / photo: Oleh Golovatenko / LRT

According to her, the most difficult thing was at the very beginning, when she had an idea, but did not know where to start – where to find Ukrainian women and how to communicate with them. “This work also required organizational skills from me – we started gathering the community. When it worked, I knew I could go further. This book was a filler”– said Lina Shlipavichyute.

Journalist Palmyra Galkontaite joined the project a little later, but when she received an offer from the publishing house to record the stories of Ukrainian women, she says, she did not hesitate for a moment. She remembered how every time she immersed herself in history, let it pass through her to give birth anew.

“The Lithuanian language is not adapted to war, she said, I couldn’t imagine how many words I would have to find to describe the weapons the women were telling me about. There were many brutal, painful and extremely personal details in those stories, and I tried to select them delicately. The stories broadened my understanding of the war, when I met with living witnesses, I realized that Ukrainians fight not only with weapons in their hands, that women bear a huge, not always visible burden of war – to take care of children, grandparents, disabled people. I really hope that this united army will win this war.”

Presentation of the book

Presentation of the book “Iškrausiosi iš pragaro” / photo: Oleh Golovatenko / LRT

The book “Escape from Hell” contains 16 authentic, unique and shocking accounts of the war. Palmyra Galcontaite says that we should listen to them in order not to fall asleep, to calm down, to reconcile, to constantly remember that the deadly battle between good and evil is still going on.

The alarm went off again. That’s what we jokingly called the explosions that got me out of bed at five in the morning. But that day it didn’t look funny at all.

“The alarm went off again. That’s what we jokingly called the explosions that got me out of bed at five in the morning. But that day it didn’t look funny at all. Makari was bombed for some time. Just swept off the face of the earth. Our Byshiv is very close. We heard explosions. But I’ve never heard a sound like tonight.

The day before, my father’s friend came to us with his family, two dogs and a cat. All the beds were occupied. I slept on a mattress on the floor. In the morning I woke up to a bright flash. A deafening explosion rang out behind him.

It seemed that our house even jumped up, threw me up. Everyone rolled out of bed. “To the basement, to the basement as fast as possible!” Dad shouted. We rushed in the dark to grab switches. But there was no electricity. We collected things by hand and with flashlights.

Since the beginning of the war, we have been taught that when you go to bed, everything you need – a backpack, a flashlight, the clothes you will wear, a charged phone – should be nearby… But who thought about this when everything was fine, when we lived peacefully and our ears were not they broke the wail of sirens. When we thought that we would feel completely safe in distant Byshev.

When the bridge over the Irpin River was blown up in the first days of the war, there were almost no escape routes left. Everyone felt cornered. Trapped Neither escape nor stay. In any case, death can overtake. People just went out on the road.

All those deaths seemed to kill a part of me. The pain is gone. Atrophied feelings. A kind of parallel reality. Because in reality, all this simply cannot be. It felt like it wasn’t happening to me, it wasn’t happening to us. Like a nightmare you can’t wake up from. Neither the head nor the heart can accept all this. I can’t find any excuse, any justification.”

Presentation of the book

Presentation of the book “Iškrausiosi iš pragaro” / photo: Oleh Golovatenko / LRT

These are lines from the story of the musician Alla. She came from Irpin to Lithuania with a small backpack and the national Ukrainian instrument – the bandura. It was this tool that helped her find her place in Lithuania, unite the Ukrainian community, create a sense of unity and overcome longing for her homeland.

“Through painful experiences, through the bombing, we understood what it really means to feel united, to experience, to support each other. It was great, but I wish I had more of that feeling. Today, the most important thing is not to close in on yourself in pain, do what you know how to do, create your own life and try to prevent war from becoming an everyday thing, a stream of news, we must support Ukraine”– one of the heroines of the book said at the presentation.

“I pressed Artem to me. The bus is full. Three people are sitting on two chairs. Babies and children up to three years old in arms. Almost exclusively women with children. Only two men. One of them is a deaf mute with a baby, and the other is a widower with four children. Some keep cages with pets on their laps: puppies, kittens, hamsters. Larger dogs have difficulty walking between seats. Who snores, who sneezes, who coughs. But no one is offended. Everyone thinks only that they have escaped, that they have passed death, although they understand that they are heading into the unknown.

We left in Vilnius. Me in high heels, Tyoma with sneakers and a swimsuit in a backpack. Like tourists who came to visit for the weekend.

My heart aches when I remember saying goodbye to Zhenya in Lviv. We only had three to five minutes – no more. We did not celebrate his 25th anniversary. I only had time to present a gift – we have such a tradition that on the occasion of the anniversary we give children gold, which is passed down from generation to generation. It was also a chain I gave him, made from a ring my grandmother gave me. We hugged and said goodbye. I don’t know when we will see each other again.

With the beginning of the war, the lines of volunteers stretched to all Ukrainian military commissariats. Men, boys, even children seem to have crossed the thresholds, daring to be taken to war. “If not me, then who?” – were angry if they did not take someone. I think Zhenya is also thinking of enrolling somewhere, but he doesn’t tell me. Can I blame him for that?”

Presentation of the book

Presentation of the book “Iškrausiosi iš pragaro” / photo: Oleh Golovatenko / LRT

These lines from the book are Alyona’s story. “Without Alyona’s support, the book would not exist,” said the artist Lina Shlipavichyute, who drew female portraits, at the presentation, and the moderator of the event, Sarunas Cherniauskas, said that he met Alyona in Vilnius, at the “City Laboratory”, which in the early days started organizing receptions Ukrainians Alyona was a great help to the compatriots who had arrived – she helped them find housing, eat, communicate, and later became actively involved in the activities of the Ukrainian community in Vilnius.

Presentation of the book

Presentation of the book “Iškrausiosi iš pragaro” / photo: Oleh Golovatenko / LRT

The war found Elena in Belarus, where she then went to deal with inheritance matters. Both sons are in Kyiv, Ukraine. To this day, Alyona cannot help but wonder how her fellow Belarusians, apparently educated people, did not want to believe that Ukraine was attacked.

“Maybe they are shooting at each other here? – they were surprised when Alyona showed the messages and pictures from Ukraine sent by her son. – It seems they don’t want to believe what’s going on, they don’t want to know, the propaganda has turned off their perception.” – she says, adding that the war affected the psychological state of many Ukrainians, especially children.

Although her son Artem did not have to hide in basements, he did not feel direct assaults on himself, the boy has changed. He does not let go of his mother, begins to panic when she does not answer phone calls for a long time. Having attended the pool since he was six years old, he refuses to swim, apparently because he was dressed for the pool on the day he needed to escape. In addition, everything Russian or Belarusian annoys him.

Presentation of the book

Presentation of the book “Iškrausiosi iš pragaro” / photo: Oleh Golovatenko / LRT

Each story in the book “Iškrakusios iš pragaro” is difficult and sensitive, but at the same time, says the author of the book L. Shlipavičute, it is a good and healing experience: “The stories of Ukrainian women remind us of hope and how much strength and power each of us has.”

Presentation of the book
Presentation of the book
Presentation of the book

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