I lived for 8 years in Lviv but I’m originally from Crimea. I crossed the border with Poland just with my backpack and then I stayed and got the visa. I realised I needed some more stuff. So, I decided to go back into Ukraine to get some warm clothes and, finally, this little amulet, my little house. I loved my apartment and always had little decorations that made the space look more beautiful. These were on a coffee table and this little house was one of them, you know, a little house, handmade, of Ukrainian wood, didn’t take much space so I took it with me. When I got back to my hometown, I didn’t stay in my apartment as I had been invited by my friends from Kyiv to come and stay and be somewhat farther from the conflict zone. So, I stayed in another friend’s place and just went to get my stuff. It was really sentimental and intense in the house. Because I didn’t want to go, maybe it would be better to stay and wait. Maybe some people are braver than me and they would be willing to do so but not me. I couldn’t live in this fear and anxiety. In the night you couldn’t sleep from the sirens. Actually, I couldn’t sleep and spent all night in the bathroom with my passport and documents that is supposed to be more secluded and safer. My friend who hosted me had gotten used to the sirens so he slept in the night. What I remember are the tapes on the windows in his house. Putting tape will stop glass from getting in the house and causing injuries in case of an explosion nearby. I remember the different shapes, the Xs and the star-shape.
Now, I’m here trying to figure out who I am and what to do in life. Because some people are going back, because they miss Ukraine. They accept the risk and return. I find myself in the position that I don’t know if I want to go back. I miss my country and people, my mom is still in Crimea. Last time I saw her was in 2018. I came to Hastings by accident. Because we were going on a Facebook group with accommodation for Ukrainians so we went there and entered a small text with our names, our age, our interests and then the lady who responded was in Hastings. She wrote that “just reading this information I feel I already know you, you are my people – vegan, animal lovers” and it was a match. We started exchanging emails and that was it. I had never heard of Hastings before. It was just a happy accident.
I’m still struggling to find myself here. It is not easy to fit in a new community. I have the support of our hosts who are the age of my parents. They have the soul of the parent and have this energy. It is important to get this parental support, emotionally. There is so much work you need to do. I go to art classes to meet more people. It is a long process. You cannot make friends in a year’s time. Suddenly, you find yourself lonely in a new place and you see around interesting and happy people but you can just sit and watch them live their lives without being a part of it. On top of dealing with everything else, leaving your country, your home and so on. Sometimes it is frustrating and exhausting. It takes so much energy, and resources and efforts to make people like you, to be your friends, and sometimes you don’t have this energy.
– Nastia Sleeptsova