Starting from noon, dozens of people come to the humanitarian deposit: they are from Dnipro, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia.
In a far corner of the deposit two people are quarreling raising their voices: they could not peacefully pass near a mountain of footwear. A younger woman’s comment said in a low voice: «Have mercy on her, her home has been bombed in Mariupol», was followed by tears and almost a confession: how she alone with very small children hit the road to come here, how she changed houses seven times, that she does not know if she will ever see her brother, an Azov fighter, currently a POW, that several days ago her husband has left Bakhmut on rotation, but soon he will have to return to that inferno, where her other brother is fighting now…
That is why it’s so difficult for her to control herself, she tends to defend herself from everyone. The bitter smile makes her beautiful mouth cramp. Realizing that people are listening to her, she suddenly changes her story to tell how wonderful her life in Kharkiv was, what beautiful parks were there, she is remembering Feldman EcoPark and Zoo, where her family went now and then, and how much fun her sons had there. She suddenly realizes that she has to hurry: she’s left the older son to babysit the younger one, who is not even two years old yet. Her trip has not been in vain, she’s found everything she had hoped for: footwear for the boys and another change of bed sheets.
Barely lifting a full box of different items, already at the door, a slender woman says to the volunteers: «Ehi, girls, thank you so much! Next time I will bring you some marshmallows! You’ve never tasted so good ones!»
A quick conversation reveals that she is a former nurse applying for a self-employment license in Vilnius. She shows photos: luxurious cakes she baked for her sons in Zaporizhzhia. She says they have arrived to Vilnius just recently, when her nine-year-old could not sleep anymore due to missile attacks. First, they lived in Kaunas for a month, later they have moved to Vilnius, where her disabled husband found a job in a car service. At home, she was a nurse and worked on an ambulance. She has seen enough of blood in her life, so now she wants a more calm and happy job.
The owners of the apartment she stays at tasted her baking and gave her advice to apply for a special license to work with alimentary products and bake celebration cakes and marshmallows. She is hoping to bake the biggest cake of all at home, where her mom stayed with a bunch of pets in the yard of the surviving house, to honor the victory.
Big brown eyes of the usually merry volunteer on duty are suddenly filled with tears: yesterday her mother was buried there, in Belarus. How should she break the news to the kids? Her mom was young, only 50. She said goodbye to her on a video call, went to a church for the memorial litany, and today she has to be here: she is on duty, there is nobody to replace her.
People, people, people continue arriving… An elderly woman, treading at the door timidly and meaninglessly, with a plastic bag with shoes in one hand, is looking inside boxes and touching things, not daring to take them from the shelves. It’s been a week since she got away from the shooting. It was snowing in Kharkiv, she came wearing warm clothes, and now it’s too hot to wear them, that’s why she is glad to get boots and a vest, and everything else the volunteers helped her find. She came to Lithuania with her son who is sick with cancer. He immediately found a job as a trolleybus driver.
For now, their life is difficult, both emotionally and financially. They are waiting for a residence permit to move further. Their home in Kharkiv has survived. Almost. Their values have changed completely. Before, things were important, now life is. Her daughter and her grandchildren are in the Western Ukraine; however, she was too scared to let her sick son leave alone, so she went with him. Now, she has to arrange their everyday life, at the same time not showing to the son what storm is raging in her soul.
She thanks the organization IGFM for the support of all these tired, disappointed, exhausted people, every one with her or his own horrible story.
She thanks the Belarusian women from Our House: they are so peaceful, calm, caring, treated her like a little baby, help find cloths and shoes that fit to people who have arrived without anything. Everybody hoped that that madness would soon finish. She tidies her violet-gray bush of hair and adds: «Yet, I still hope we will go back home soon».
She says goodbye and leaves, having put the filled-in application form on the table. The first line shows her name written in big letters – Nadezhda, which means Hope.