The Handwritten Story of a Seventeen-Year-Old Refugee from Donbas

Published: Jul 19, 2022 Reading time: 5 minutes
The Handwritten Story of a Seventeen-Year-Old Refugee from Donbas
© Martina Kostečková

Read the personal story of a seventeen-year-old Ukrainian refugee from Donbas, Ukraine. In his very personal account of events, Mykyta shares the fears and feelings that he’s felt, not only over the past few months, but over the last few years while running from Russian aggression.

The story of Mykyta, whom you may have encountered in a previously published article concerning Ukrainian high school students and whom we are helping, shows the difficult fate of refugees. While it’s true that this is not the first time they he have been forced to evacuate their homes, this is the first time Mykyta has had to flee the bombings alone, without his family.

“It’s not easy to describe the emotions, feelings and problems that I’ve had over the past few years. What’s more, when such terrible events happen in the world, and more specifically, in your country, then all your personal struggles no longer seem to be so important. But they don’t go away, you still have them.

In addition to immediate problems as a result of such circumstances, I was constantly plagued by anxieties and concerns for loved ones. Every time a siren went off or the consequences of shelling was reported in the news, my mind was flooded with fear. It's hard to stop thinking about them: my brother in Kharkiv, my father in occupied territory...”

How long have I been on the run?

“I don't remember the events of 2014 very clearly – only fragments. I remember things like how I was walking with a friend and suddenly, after several explosions in the distance, we heard the rumble of engines and metal tracks on the asphalt – tanks were coming.

I also remember my parents waking me and my brother up in the middle of the night - there was shelling somewhere nearby. After these kinds of things and other similar events, our parents decided to send us to the city of Kramatorsk."

"It was the first time I left home without being sure that I would be able to come back."

"After more than a year, when the situation in Donetsk calmed down, my parents brought me home. Regardless of the difficult events that occurred in my childhood, I always had friends, acquaintances and, of course, my parents. But when the conflict at the border calmed down, the problems remained. For example, no documents that had been issued by the DPR (Donetsk People's Republic) were recognized in any other country (specifically, those recognized by the United Nations). This was explained by the fact that the occupied territory itself was not recognized by anyone. Because of this, I had to study at two schools at once – I went to school in Donetsk in order to really learn, while completing necessary requirements for a Ukrainian school online. Free time was non-existent for me. 

Then it all seemed to be over – I received a high school diploma even I hadn't officially completed school. In order to officially complete my secondary school education, I would have had to finish school on the territory of Ukraine. But when I left my home in Donetsk for the second time, I was aware that I would have neither the reasons nor the opportunity to go back. It was very difficult to say goodbye to my relatives, my dad, my grandfather...I left home and didn't expect to go back...

A year and a half passed relatively calmly, and it would seem that all plans are slowly beginning to come true."  

"But once again, the dictator decided to destroy the plans, dreams, and lives of so many people. All the events over the last four months have been so oppressive, that all the scary thoughts and feelings still have not gone away."

"On February 24th 2022, around 5 a.m., my mother woke me up. She sat down next to the bed in tears and she told me that Ukraine had been attacked. A few minutes later, I heard several distant explosions.

At that moment, everything in my mind turned upside down, my body was bound by terror, and in the depths of my soul there was a firm feeling that all this was all just a dream.

This time everything seemed much more serious and terrible, for if it had felt that the war had dragged on before, now we were dealing with a total invasion. The next month was made up of fear for relatives, anxiety about our house, and just anxiety in general."


Mykyta fled Ukraine together with his friend and his friend’s mother, with whom he had been staying on the day of the bombing of the city of Kramatorsk. After much deliberation, Mykyta's mother decided to stay in Ukraine with Mykyta’s elderly and disabled grandmother while Mykyta's father and older brother went to the frontlines to fight. Mykyta found refuge in the Czech Republic, where People in Need have been helping him since the beginning. He is learning Czech and currently is studying at a local secondary school.

After several weeks of uncertainty about whether the family would ever be reunited again, Mykyta’s mother and grandmother fled Ukraine after hearing about a threat of an impending attack. The two fled to Czechia from the Kramator railway station in Kramatorsk where dozens of civilians were killed a few days later from intense Russian shelling.

People in Need arranged transport for the two exhausted women from Prague's main train station upon arrival. Because of Mykyta’s grandfather’s fragile health, PIN managed to secure a small apartment for the two women with a health center nearby.

Mykyta's mother, who is a teacher, immediately began volunteering at a local school that focused on integrating Ukrainian children into the Czech Republic.  

Author: Mykyta, Eva Kroupová, Translators: Anna Munter and Adéla Zámečníková

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