A call from Kyiv at 4.50 in the morning.
My husband’s best friend.
We don’t want to pick up.
It keeps ringing.
Oleg answers.
The friend says four words:
“They are bombing Kyiv.”

We jump out of bed.
Wide awake.
They’re bombing Kyiv.
We were all speculating about it, now it’s happening.
The war.

We live in a small village.
There’s no information.
No news on TV.

Mum works as a cleaner in Poland.
Mum said: “Pack a bag.”
That was two weeks ago.
“Yes mum, we’ve got bags ready.”
That was a lie.
We hadn’t believed her.
I hadn’t packed yet.

I’ve got my passport.
My husband’s passport is in his village, that’s half an hour by car.
That’s where his brother lives.
His parents are deceased.

Mum keeps calling all the time.
We know: We’ve reached the end.
Mum was right. And we keep lying.
We tell her we’re already on our way to the border.
It isn’t true.

We’ve got a car. The tank is empty.
My husband says he’s driving to the petrol station.
It’s 6.30 a.m.

We open the door.
We see images from the apocalypse.
The whole village is running around in confusion.
They line up for the petrol station.
Line up for the cash machine.
Line up for the supermarket.
The online systems are switched off.
Only cash is any good.
We don’t have any.

It’s the 24th of February, the day I’m supposed to receive my wages.
I call my boss.
He owns a restaurant.
He says: “You’ve got 15 minutes to come pick your wages up.”
The restaurant is on the ground floor.
We live on the third floor.

I hold the cash in my hands.
I have hope now, I head to the petrol station, to the queue.
After three hours we buy petrol finally.
Then, we set off to my husband’s village.

9.30 a.m.
Oleg, my husband, says he doesn’t want to leave.
He wants to stay with his brother, he wants to defend his country.
I say: “If you’re not going, I’m staying too.”
He says horrible things happen on these journeys.
So he wants to come with me then come back here.

11 a.m.
At his brother Nikolai’s.
Nikolai doesn’t want to leave. We plead with him. He won’t change his mind.
Now we’ve got the passport, a charger, documents, a bit of cash.
Then we’re on our way to the border. To the West. To Poland.

1 p.m.
There’s a queue. People as far as the eye can see.
We phone Nikolai. We push him. “Run.”
He doesn’t want to.

4 p.m.
Nikolai says he’ll come with us, to Poland.

8 p.m.
Nikolai is at the border crossing.
We are on the other side.
Nikolai says: “There’s a 26 kilometre traffic jam between me and the checkpoint now.
I’m not going to make it.”

10 p.m.
The president says men are banned from leaving the country.

Men get out of cars.
Women get in driver seats.
Women and children drive west.
Men stay behind.

Nikolai’s call up papers have arrived.
Now we’re waiting for him to go to war.
Nikolai is Oleg’s only relative.