Oksana Valenková

* 1980

  • "Almost everybody was in the Communist Party and it happened that those who commited an offence, such as rioting or drunkenness, were expelled from it. This was done at mass meetings and was always a great disgrace to those concerned. I remember how we were accepted into the Jiskry (Sparks) and the Pioneer. At that time, we made things, glued and drew pictures, and kept guard in our park, Maxim Gorky Park. We were also afraid that we would be expelled or not accepted into the Pioneer at all, and the idea was terrible, unimaginable for us. Suddenly there was a referendum and the Soviet Union fell apart. We were at the seaside at that time and my grandfather was always listening to the radio, he was feeling strongly about it, it was very uncertain at that time. During the Soviet era, people felt a kind of stability. A lot of things had been built here, there were big factories and the employees had a clearly defined life. In five years they would get an apartment, they would continue to work and secure a quiet life and status. With the economic crisis, everything disappeared. Nevertheless people in this country regard the financial crisis as a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union and do not understand that these were independent processes."

  • "I read various advice on how to clean out the phone properly before the Russians checked it. I kicked my friends off Facebook who had the Ukrainian flag in their profiles. I cleared all my messenger communications as well as my web browsing history. I also reminded my husband not to read news on the internet because they might look at his phone and find some of it provocative. But in the end, it turns out that if you browse news sites, you can say you want to be informed after all and get away with it. The main thing is that they don't find so-called incorrect words anywhere."

  • "My husband and his neighbour went to the road to check the situation. The Russians pointed machine guns at them, they [our men] had previously taken a white cloth, waved it around and finally managed to talk to them. They [the Russians] said that tomorrow our village would no longer exist. Our men asked if they were serious. And they said that our village would simply no longer exist. We understood that we had to leave somewhere. But how can we do that if no one will let us go? The road was jammed with military convoys, it was impossible to get either to Melitopol or to the Crimea. We woke up in the morning and a neighbor was riding her bike outside, shouting that we should evacuate quickly, that we had half an hour, that we should grab the kids and go. Nobody hesitated, the guys ran to get the cars, I dressed the kids, grabbed what I could and off we went."

  • "I had expected this situation. But not only that, I even had prepared for it. Together with the children, we watched instructions on the internet on how to behave during shelling, for example. I showed them where a pit or a stone wall was and where to lie down in case of artillery fire. On February 24, Uncle Sasha was supposed to go to Zaporozhye to help with the construction, but the driver called to say that they were not going anywhere. I thought they'd argued. That morning I hadn't fallen asleep and suddenly a neighbour called and said: 'Oksana, you were right, the war has started!' I didn't believe it at first, then I went outside and saw the red glow of the nearby military airfield which was burning. There was no one on the street, so I called my husband in Zaporozhye. I got through after a while and he didn't believe it either. When he understood, they quickly got into the car and managed to return. The other boys from our village were going a little later and didn't get back in here, they weren't allowed in."

  • Full recordings
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    Litomyšl, 07.10.2022

    duration: 02:27:15
    media recorded in project Memory of Ukraine
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Oksana had to leave because she didn’t want to work for the Russian occupiers

In the first class, 1987
In the first class, 1987
photo: Witness´s archive

Oksana Valenková was born on 30 June 1980 in Melitopol. Her mother and father worked in a factory producing car parts, and Oksana and her sister lived with their grandparents. Oksana graduated from the Institute of Economics, has a daughter Maria from her first marriage, and now has two sons with her second husband. They lived in the village of Novoye near Melitopol, Oksana worked as an accountant and at the same time earned some extra money by growing flowers and vegetables. Her husband Denys worked in construction. They took in their elderly “uncle” Sasha, who had been deprived of his housing by speculators, and he lived with them and helped with various jobs. Already during the annexation of Crimea in February 2014, Oksana Valenková was afraid that the Russians would not stop. Although this did not come true then, Oksana remained cautious, for example, teaching her sons how to behave during shelling or an air raid. The Russian army occupied their village on the very first day of the war, 24 February 2022. On the third day, the Russians allowed the evacuation, and the family left for the border with Crimea in Novoalekseyevka. Local people helped the refugees by providing food and accommodation. Two weeks later, when the situation had calmed down a bit, they came back. Life was returning to the occupied territories and at the same time the new pro-Russian authorities began to function. Oksana refused an offer to work as an accountant at the university, considering it collaboration. However, they had to deal with the question of how to make their living, as her husband did not have a job either. They sold flowers and homemade sausages while watching the Russians establish their own order in the occupied territories. They set up a repressive regime, with the help of the army, preparing a referendum for annexation to the Russian Federation and also preparing the resumption of schooling according to their own curriculum prescribed by Moscow. Oksana finally convinced her husband that they had to leave. But before that, they carefully prepared for the so-called “filtration” process that anyone leaving the occupied territories must undergo. This meant, for example, deleting all potentially suspicious discussions or contacts, as well as “incorrect words” criticising the Russian army or regime. They successfully passed through a filtration point at the Crimean border and crossed Russia by bus to Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and finally the Czech Republic. In 2022, they lived in Chrudim and counted on it being a long stay.