Liza cried through the first month


One year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Towards Dialogue Foundation has launched the publication of a series of testimonies by Ukrainian Roma refugee women. Their poignant stories bear witness to the enormously traumatic experience of war.

This text was created as part of the series 'Stories of Roma refugee women' in cooperation with the Foundation Towards Dialogue. It originally appeared on the Foundation's website.

Liza, romska uchodźczyni

Many people have complained about the noise coming from one of the rooms in the long-term residence center at 22 Kasprzaka Street. Elizaveta admits: "I thunder." And that's just what she is, loud. Unlike her four teenage children, with whom she lives: Liza, Stepan, Artiom, and Mariana.

Before the war, she worked at the bazaar for 15 years. Every two weeks she took a bus to Drohobych, where she knew a man who sold the cheapest shoes, socks, and T-shirts. She traded goods where she happened to live. For the last 10 years in Zhytomyr, before that in Irshava.

The job gave her a livelihood and equipped her with a loud voice. Most importantly, it taught resourcefulness, so necessary when raising ten offspring and later when she had to sell her house in Transcarpathia. Then, when one of her children developed cancer, she and the other four decided to flee to Poland.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, she didn't think long. She packed up on the second day of the war. Her husband, Vasyl, also packed up, ready to go in the other direction: to join the Ukrainian army. She cried a lot, but she remembers her stay in Przemyśl well. People helped her, and organized activities in which her children participated. They had never been abroad before.

She returned to Ukraine due to illness. She spent several months in Zhytomyr, shuttling between home and the hospital. She brought water, blankets, and potatoes to the basement. She tried not to think about whether they would ever come in handy. She couldn't get used to the bomb alarms. She decided to leave again after she met children selling candy in the bazaar - they were collecting money for the Ukrainian fight.

This time she cried for a month - for her family who stayed in Ukraine, especially her husband. In Przemyśl she got information that there is an organization in Warsaw that helps the Roma community. Now she is trying to be a support for her children. She wants them to go to school, so they don't get into trouble. She is determined and ready to see to it. Let her neighbors' complaints be proof of that. 

Please note that the views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.