“Even a month after arriving in Prague, when I was travelling by train or tram, I wasn’t sure if I was alive or not. I asked myself: ‘Did I survive, or am I no longer on this planet?’ I was quite intensely stressed out. When we arrived in Prague, the volunteers told us that we had to smile here - that we should smile so that everyone is happy. But you just can't have a smile on your face because you don’t even understand what they’re saying to you. This state is quite difficult to describe. And if you haven’t been through it–and I certainly don’t wish anyone to experience it–it’s very difficult to explain to other people what’s wrong with you. I was aware they didn't understand what was happening to us.”
“At that time, my parents lived in Alchevsk, and we lived in Kharkiv. But they came to visit us in February 2022. Only for a few days - they were supposed to return home soon. The whole situation repeated for the second time. It was like a déjà vu. Just like in 2014, we woke up at five in the morning and heard the already familiar explosions. I woke up and thought: ‘This can’t be true, it must be just a dream.’ I refused to believe what I was hearing outside the window. I thought: ‘This can't be true, it absolutely can’t be!’ I couldn't believe it. And then I realized the terrifying reality.”
“On 2 June 2014, we were woken up by the sounds of explosions. I remember the date well because it was my mother’s birthday. My parents lived in Alchevsk at that time, and my husband, son and I lived in Luhansk. My mother called me and said: ‘Drop everything and come to us, do it for my birthday.’ We packed up and went to Alchevsk, taking only a few bags of clothes with us, including children’s things, because we thought it would not be for long. Then it turned out that we would stay there for a while. We were asking ourselves: ‘Can there be war in the 21st century?’ But we couldn’t believe it. That is, we went to Alchevsk as if for a short vacation. But when we started hearing explosions very close and the war situation only intensified, we got on the last train and went to our relatives in Kharkiv.”
You need to look for happiness in simple things and take care of your loved ones
Nataliia Melnyk was born on 13 April 1983 in Kommunarsk (now Alchevsk) in Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine. She liked to learn, was interested in psychology, history, and humanities and loved creative activities. In 2000, she began studying at the Faculty of History of the Taras Ševčenko Luhansk State Pedagogical Institute. Later, she gained another specialization - she became a certified remedial teacher and psychologist. Nataliia Melnyk initially worked in education, and later–with her husband–she founded a network of psychological counselling in Luhansk, where she worked as a psychologist. After the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine in 2014, she and her family were forced to flee to Kharkiv, where she lived until March 2022. In March 2022, she fled to Prague with her parents and son Rostislav, where she still lives (2022). At the time of filming–in October 2022–she worked as a custodian at the Church of Our Lady of the Snows in the centre of Prague.