As we fled, I harnessed my adrenaline and continued to alert the world to my experiences and fundraise to aid other Africans trying to escape Ukraine. I created threads documenting the ordeal and resources to help refugees and fact-check information being shared about the war.
I basically woke up to the war. I woke up to hell. The memory of that morning, of hearing about all of the missile strikes and explosions all over Ukraine, is burned into my brain. I have never been so scared.
College student and Orato journalist Yuliia Rudenko details 18 days in war zone
I do not hear the noises of war anymore. It's finally starting to sink in that I'm safe in South Africa. I no longer have to fear the turmoil in Ukraine and the racism that made it harder for me to leave.
All this time, I was calm. I heard no shelling, only Andrii’s moans, and saw nothing but his eyes. I did what I was supposed to, in accordance with all the instructions I learned during my training. But when I closed the door of the car, I took out a cigarette and felt a shiver run down my body. My hands started to shake, and I burst out crying.
At one point during the fighting, I spotted a grenade under my feet. I tried to throw it outside of our fortification, but it exploded right in my hands. I hit the ground knowing that the irreparable had just happened. I could not feel my arms, my right eye was filled with blood, my lower lip was destroyed. I did not feel any pain, only terrible nausea because of blood loss.
The dozen or so FSB officers showed no mercy; they shoved my husband to the ground so that he bruised his forehead. Our girl cried out “Daddy, daddy!” when she saw the masked, armed men holding her father.