Ольга Сергеєва Olha Sergieva

* 1970

  • “Perhaps the first time I realized that something was not right was when... I don't know how to say it... we were doing exercises, Soviet propaganda exercises, and we received a letter from a girl... I understand that it was probably... I don't even know, I don't understand why... what they wanted to prove with it... there was this girl, some American girl, writing a letter and asking questions, and the whole class had to respond to this letter. Each of us had to write an essay in which we answered this letter. And there were accusations like: “You do this, and you do that”, and we had to respond. So as far as I understand it was some kind of educational element so that we could handle tricky questions if we were asked. But then there was a question about Afghanistan, why we were at war in Afghanistan. I didn't really know much about this war, so I went to ask my dad. And since he avoided my gaze, I started thinking, maybe something was wrong there, in Afghanistan. And when you start thinking about how soldiers from your country find themselves on foreign territories, more questions arise. That's how it all started”.

  • “It didn't touch me. It didn't touch me. At that moment, I didn't even know, I didn't feel any difference... <…> there was this misunderstanding — what is it for, what should we do with it... what do we need to do now with all of this? It practically didn't... show externally. Because at some point, nothing had changed at all. It was just as it was. Yes, we knew that we now... There were a lot of questions: will we have to get new passports now? What should we do now? What about our money? What about... Nobody knew anything, and it somehow seemed to me that we received this independence without being prepared for it. It just fell into our hands. We, like those pithecantropuses, didn't know what to do with that wheel. We were spinning it, spinning it, but why, what's the value of it? We didn't really... I think that not many people truly grasped... they didn't understand what they had received. There were many questions: why? What for? Why do we need it?”

  • “I had huge expectations from the Orange Revolution, huge. And observing people, well... We had... People changed, but the leadership didn't. I mean, not the leadership... those who came into power didn't change. <…> People changed. It was very noticeable. And they say, rightly so, that a herring, fish rots from the head. People changed, they wanted change, and if the leadership had changed from within, I believe we would have gone very far. We wouldn't have the war we have now, and I think we would be more economically stable than Poland. That's how I see it. But the way the leadership of the country betrayed that trust, what they turned it into... it killed my illusions about power in general. My belief in the possibility of changing people in power, when they are in power... <…> I became cynical. Very cynical”.

  • “There was a location where aid was being collected. I came there to help. There were girls who were completely confused, not knowing what to do. There was a palpable sense of confusion. <…> I left them my contact information, letting them know that if they needed help, I was ready. They just blinked in response. So, I decided to sit in the corner. <…> It was cold, and I huddled near the stove. Then two young boys came in, very young, around nineteen. They were also confused and said: “We are from the medical university, studying to become doctors... We are heading to Maidan. We came here to ask because we need kneepads, maybe body armor... helmets, anything. They are shooting there”. The girls also said: “We have nothing”. And that's when I realized I found my purpose. I took them to my place, drove them there, fed them because they were not from Lviv, and my husband and I provided them with clothes. My husband had a bulletproof vest and helmets, and I gave them kneepads. We only had children's ones, the kind they used for rollerblading. I gave them sweaters, and I fried some pancakes for them to take on the road. In short, I adopted them. They said their parents didn't know they were going. I told them that for now, I was their mother, and they had to call me every morning and evening. And if they didn't call, I would come and spank them. Well, they called every time, returned my calls, and said everything was fine. <…> Since then, we... They wished each other happy birthdays and celebrated all the holidays. One of them is currently at war, and the other one already passed away. Their names were Petro and Maksym”

  • “We have become a nation. And a nation is not defined by the language you speak. A nation is like an organism. I have a hand, and I have a leg; they are different, but they are one. Likewise, I believe that we are a nation, that we can have Catholics, Greek Catholics, Jews, but we are Ukrainians. Some speak Ukrainian, some speak Russian at home, but we are Ukrainians. It all depends on how you identify yourself in this territory. Are you a guest or a host? If you are a host, your place should be clean, bright, warm, abundant, and if anyone comes to you with a weapon, you will simply resist... I don't know, you won’t kill, but you will hit them in the forehead. Or if someone says: “Let's bend here, let's compromise there, and here we can tolerate”. No, no, no. You enter our house with dirty feet, well, no problem, we'll clean up later. No. That's not how it works. A nation is about honor, dignity, and the strength to fight back. And I believe that when the boys return after the Victory, we will not be ashamed. I hope that we won't ruin it”.

  • Full recordings
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    Lviv, 27.01.2023

    duration: 02:31:40
    media recorded in project Voices of Ukraine
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A nation with honor and dignity

Olha Sergieva
Olha Sergieva
photo: Personal archive of Olha Sergieva

Olha Sergieva was born on January 2, 1970, in Lviv to a mixed Russian-Ukrainian family. She grew up in a Russian-speaking environment and attended a Russian-language school. After graduating, she enrolled in Ivan Franko Lviv National University, majoring in Russian Philology. Starting from her third year of studying, she taught Russian language and literature in a school during her free time. After completing university, she realized that she didn’t want to work as a teacher for the rest of her life. In 1991, Olha moved to St. Petersburg, where she rented a room and worked as a saleswoman in a music store. In 1997, she returned to Lviv, opened her own cafe, and got married. Later, she obtained an additional degree in economics and worked for a while in her husband’s company. In 2004, she participated in the Orange Revolution protests in Lviv. At the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, she traveled to Kyiv to support the protests on Maidan Square and provided assistance to the activists. In 2014, she switched to using Ukrainian in her communication. That same year, she began volunteering and entered Ivan Boberskyi Lviv State University of Physical Culture, studying physiotherapy. With the start of the full-scale invasion, she actively engaged in volunteer work. Currently, in 2023, she lives and works in Lviv, and she has two adult children: a daughter and a son who has been serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine since 2022 and is currently stationed at the frontlines.