Svetlana’s suitcase was already packed, ready for the approaching delivery date. But the emergency that she, who is pregnant, her husband and her other child had to face was something completely different: fleeing to Caritas-Spes, travelling for seventeen hours through a suffering country.
At 5am on 24 February, Svetlana heard three explosions coming from a military base. An hour and a half later she heard news that the war had started. Svetlana is pregnant with her second child. She had already packed her suitcase in case she had to rush to hospital to give birth, and her car was still full of petrol for the same reason. But she was now having to deal with a completely different emergency.
At 8.30 a.m. the whole family left the house. Little Yelysei wasn’t worried about this unexpected escape. He was used to travelling with his parents and, as his mother said, “he doesn’t understand what war is, even though we have tried to explain it to him. A child’s heart is full of love and goodness, and must remain innocent.”
Svetlana already knew about the Caritas-Spes facility in the Carpathians. That’s where she wanted to go, for her it is “a safe and magical place”. She has spent summer holidays there. So heading west, her husband drives for seventeen hours. They pass the town of Uman, whose sky is covered with clouds of smoke from the military depots having been bombed; they are forced to make detours to avoid running into danger; they cross a country that the woman describes as “suffering”.
It’s a journey fraught with anxiety but Svetlana tries to remain calm to reassure her son and avoid harming the baby she is expecting who already has a name, Kateryna: “War is a tragic event but I want to look to the future with optimism for the children’s sake. I believe that the nation is formed in these torments. Faith helps us to endure every trial. We must remain steadfast and hope for salvation. You reap what you sow, and I hope that my daughter will live a long and happy life with other children from our wonderful country”.
(The text is a summary of the article that appeared on the website of Caritas-Spes Ukraine, from which the photograph is also taken.)