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Anastasia has always had a good intuition and she knew something would happen. That is also why she prepared her emergency (anxious) backpack full of warm clothes and important documents. Few days before everything started, she picked up her diploma, renewed her heritage documents, withdrew all her money from bank accounts and even exchanged euros. A friend of hers, whose husband works in the police force, called her to tell her that it was probably going to happen. Similar messages were echoing between people a lot, but almost nobody took it seriously, since it was supposed to happen many times before according to the media all around the world. However, this time, Anastasia’s intuition was telling her something else. On the 23th of February she stayed at her mum’s place located in the left part of Kyiv which is the part where there are not so many critical infrastructure and decision-making headquarters that avoided bombing that night…

She keeps waking up, and she can’t sleep very well tonight. At around 5 am her phone rings. “Anastasia, it has started, the war has started” says her friend with a horrified voice. In that moment she feels a vast wave of fear and anxiousness falling on her. It is that animal kind of fear. She is trembling, walking around the room trying to process what is going on right now. Anastasia gets up, opens the window and in a distance she can hear bombing and see fire. It is happening… The war has really started. She wakes her mum up. She is telling her to calm down and stop panicking because it must be only some training. But it is not. 

Her mother can’t believe that Russia started the war. She doesn’t want to accept this fact because she trusted the country that was their neighbor and who she thought would never do such things. But after a while she realizes what is going on. In a shock she takes a big suitcase and starts to pack her things. When she is done, Anasatsia checks what her mother packed up and she is surprised by what she finds in the luggage. All their large family photo albums and 3 pairs of swimsuits. She makes her mum take everything out and pack again. Suitcase is now full of winter clothes. Albums are staying on the floor in their flat. What will happen next, what are they going to do? She is on the phone with her friends and with her dad. Their voices have changed, she can hear it clearly. But everything has changed today. Not only the voices.

Next few hours are full of fog of insecurity and Anastasia has the feeling that the people have become a herd of sheep. They are queuing for hours in supermarkets whose shelves are getting empty. There is no panic but no one knows what to expect, so they want to have some food supplies. Most of the people don’t  believe that the bombing will last longer which is why many of them are staying in Kyiv. Anastasia doesn’t know what will happen but she knows she can’t stay in Kyiv. There is a difficult decision in front of her. Will she go with her father and his family to the Brovary region (east of Kyiv) or will she leave to Lviv with her mother and Godfather? Nothing is secure, she doesn’t even know if her godfather, who will be driving to Lviv, managed to get fuel or not. Anastasia doesn’t want to go east, closer to Russian borders where there are already Russian tanks in several km, so she decides to stay with her mum and go to Lviv. However, the moment she announces her decision to her Godfather, she finds out there is no place for her in the car anymore. Another wave of fear and despair. What is she going to do now? Her dad has already left and she can’t stay alone in Kyiv

In the end, her cousin, who was supposed to be in the car, decides to stay in Kyiv and to join territory defense therefore she can leave to the west with her mum.

The journey from Kyiv is never ending. The traffic jams are long and barely moving. The road leading to Kiev is empty, so people are occupying these lines as well, driving in the wrong direction. Anastasia is sitting in the back of the car in between her mother and grandmother with a cat on her lap and a lot of bags under her, she keeps reading the news, talking to her friends and remaining in fear and insecurity while they are passing by the tanks. It is her first time she sees these huge scary creatures. Journey that would usually last 4 to 5 hours is now 12, but finally they are arriving in Lviv… 

Getting to Lviv wasn’t a relief, since her father was still in Kyiv’s region and nobody knew how the war would develop. Anastasia ended up in Warsaw, although she didn’t want to go to Poland at first. She wanted to stay in Ukraine, however her mum insisted on her moving abroad. And after a couple of days of reflection and talking to her friends who were telling her to flee abroad, she agreed to go to Poland. During her stay there she got an offer to work on a fiction project “Himmel und Erde” for ZDF in Berlin. There, she spent two months in summer working as an assistant of a director of a series about stories about Ukrainians coming to Berlin. She felt alive again, working in a field she loves and feeling safe but what will follow after? When her project in Berlin finished, Anastasia wasn’t sure whether to stay in Berlin or come back to Poland, so she eventually decided to get back to Kyiv, to her home where her whole family was staying. In Kyiv she felt she didn’t want to live in fear and insecurity and have professional stagnation, so she made a calm rational decision to go back to Berlin, because her intuition told her to do so.

That is also where we met. We went for a coffee, where Anastasia shared this story with me. Apart from that she was also telling me how she feels in Berlin. “I feel a lot of freedom and openness in Berlin, and it actually reminds me of Kyiv a lot. The young generation is very open and liberal, exactly like here, and there are also similarities in the technoculture. Kyiv is another city in Europe where people are coming to enjoy techno parties and actually, during Covid, so many Berliners were traveling to Kyiv, since there weren’t such strong restrictions and the clubs were still open.”

Kyiv had been her home her whole life. She grew up there and also studied film at one of the best  film schools in Ukraine. That inspired her a lot and showed her the direction where to go. While studying she also worked on her first documentary which was about her Grandmother and her life. “You know, sometimes the most powerful stories are the closest to us. And we keep searching for inspiration and great stories everywhere, but actually there are some right next to us.” says Anastasia and talks about her strong grandmother whom she was staying with, following her routine and talking about her past, rediscovering her story, which taught her a lot. Even at 75, Anastasia’s grandmother came back to Kyiv where she works as a doctor, even now, when there is a war.

“The voices changed, I could hear it so much,” says Anastasia about the night of February 24th, when she was talking with her father and friends on the phone. It was the night when Russia started bombarding her city. 

Story of a young talented girl who came to Berlin in summer to work as an assistant of a director for a series about Ukrainians in Berlin. She lived in Poland after the war started but she decided to come to Berlin and start her new life in this city. 

I felt like I was watching a film when I was listening to Anastasia’s story and her being the brave, strong and beautiful main character of this drama. She doesn’t give up and keeps living, not only surviving despite the tragic ongoing situation in her country. It was very inspiring for me to talk to this girl with such a beautiful and creative soul and determination to follow her ambitions and dreams.

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