The UBA charitable assistance to lawyers. The story of a Kherson woman family that escaped from the occupation
The Ukrainian Bar Association has been helping Ukrainians to overcome the consequences of the war since the very first days of the full-scale invasion of Russia. Apart from providing specialized assistance, such as through the free Hotline for War Victims, the UBA is also engaged in charity projects.
The Association helps lawyers and their families who found themselves in difficult circumstances due to the war - lost housing, family breadwinner, etc. - or in other circumstances in which people need support. This project is implemented by the UBA in cooperation with the Charity Fund "Kind Hearts for Ukraine". Funds for charity come from foreign and Ukrainian patrons. You can also join this initiative and make a small donation by following this link.
The UBA and the Charity Fund "Kind Hearts for Ukraine" have already supported many lawyers and their families. We want to tell you about them, so we have prepared a series of publications about the stories of these people.
One of the first to turn to the UBA for help was Daria, a lawyer from Kherson, whose family had left the occupied city and needed all the essentials, including warm clothes.
Daria is 32 years old. She was born and grew up in Kherson. Although her parents are lawyers, the woman says that she chose the profession of a lawyer of her own free will, her father and mother did not force her to do so. Daria started and built a career as a lawyer in her hometown, and raised a family there, too.
Despite the gloomy reports about Russia's probable preparations for a major war against Ukraine, which the press circulated at the beginning of 2022, Daria and her husband did not believe in such a development. They did not prepare any emergency suitcases, instead, they planned to fly on March 8 with friends for a vacation. The couple's plans for 2022 also included renovations in the apartment. Their 6-year-old son was preparing to get a chess rank and a karate belt, and on September 1 he was supposed to start his first grade at school.
Daria's big family (in the photo, she is third from the left) 19 days before the full-scale invasion of Russia. This and other photos are from the woman's personal archive
On the morning of February 24, 2022, Daria and her husband were at home, going to work, and were supposed to take their son to kindergarten. Worried relatives called them from Henichesk, which is almost on the border with Crimea temporarily occupied by Russia, and informed them that they heard explosions. The family could not believe that the war had begun, but very soon they saw it by themselves.
"We went out on the balcony and saw a lot of helicopters flying over the Dnipro in the direction of the Antonivsky bridge. Five, seven, ten - to be honest, I don't remember anymore, but it seemed to me that there were a lot of them. They start shooting, shooting. We look and do not understand whether they are ours or not. The real feeling of fear and incomprehension of what is happening", Daria says.
On the same day, the family, together with Daria's 86-year-old grandmother, who lived the next door, moved to the lawyer's parents - they lived in a private house equipped with a basement. They took their two dogs with them, which made the parents' two dogs company.
A few days later, the Russians captured the city. Daria says that she felt like she was in prison, she was scared.
"I remember waking up one day, turning on the TV, and there were Russian TV channels. And they completely turn off any [mobile] connection with the outside world. Probably, that was the first time I had an emotional panic because I didn't understand what was happening at all - it was an information vacuum", the woman recalls.
As soon as the Russian troops entered Kherson, the local residents started coming out en masse to rallies to demonstrate that their city is Ukraine and to force the occupiers to leave. Daria and her family also joined the protests. The lawyer says that at such moments she felt proud of her people. But over time, the Russians more and more brutally suppressed the demonstrations of the citizens, with the use of weapons as well, due to which the street activity of the Kherson people came to nothing.
The occupiers set up one of their bases in the city near Daria's house, from which the family left on February 24, on the territory of the captured garrison of Ukrainian border guards. The lawyer and her family had to pass this base of invaders when they went to their home to get the necessary things. Russian soldiers caused fear and disgust in women at the same time.
"When we drive past these BMPs (infantry fighting vehicles) with Russian flags and my child shouts across the street: "Mom, look!", my heart drops. I say to him: "Oleg, please, let’s just drive quietly and that's it." This will probably be engraved in the memory forever", says Daria.
During the occupation, Daria's family moved around the city mostly on bicycles or on foot, usually the two of them. The woman and her relatives used the car just a few times. Once, when they were driving away from the house, an explosion was somewhere nearby, after which the fragments of an aircraft - probably a downed drone - fell on the windshield of the car. Daria was sitting right in the front seat at that moment.
"My first feeling was that I was being shot at. I was very scared. It probably took me several hours to get back to normal", the lawyer shares her memories.
After that incident, the family no longer drove around Kherson by car.
Since the occupation of the city, Daria and her husband lost their jobs. The woman admits that it was the desire to work that motivated her most to make the decision to leave Kherson. But she made this decision unexpectedly for herself. On April 4, Daria's friend told her on the phone that her family was leaving the city the next day for the free territory of Ukraine. Not having much time to think, the lawyer decided that they would go together.
On the same day, Daria went to her office to pick up the files and the attorney's certificate. On the spot, it turned out that the occupiers were "visiting" there. They lived on the premises for about a week and left, stealing all the office equipment. In farewell, the invaders left Daria the following mocking message:
"Dasha, sorry for the mess. With love, Russians"
At 6 a.m. on April 5, the couple with their son, dog, and a girl they knew got into a car loaded with things and set off on the road. Daria admits that she no longer felt fear at that moment, because "there is no way back for you."
"The most difficult thing was when you were hugging your parents, and at that moment, somewhere on a subconscious level, you were troubled by the thoughts: "Will I still get back home?", "Will I reach my destination?", she recalls.
The cars of Daria and her friend moved towards the Mykolaivska Oblast as part of a large convoy of those wishing to escape from the occupation. They had to take not the shortest route, the stops were only at checkpoints, of which there were seven on this route. The trip lasted 12 and a half hours, while under normal conditions, you can get from Kherson to Mykolaiv in almost 40 minutes. At checkpoints, the Russian occupiers inspected vehicles and belongings, interrogated travelers, and checked their phones. Those waiting in line were strictly forbidden to get out of the cars.
Escaping from the occupation
When Daria's family finally reached the territory controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, they did not hold back their emotions.
"We hugged, kissed the soldiers, tried to give them the sweets we were carrying. It's a feeling of freedom, the freedom of being able to breathe. You can do anything, you have so much strength, so much desire to help, to speed up our victory", the woman says.
Then the family went to Odessa. They lived there for a week in an apartment that was given to them by Daria's friend, also a lawyer. After that, the family moved to Lviv, where they settled in the apartment of another Daria’s colleague.
When leaving Kherson, the woman and her relatives thought they were going just for a month or two, so they took only the most necessary things with them. In the free territory, they lacked many things, including clothes. Daria remembers with warmth and gratitude how people and organizations helped her family in that difficult time.
The Ukrainian Bar Association and the Charity Fund "Kind Hearts for Ukraine" joined in helping Daria's family. As the lawyer said, on one of the legal platforms she saw information that the UBA provides financial assistance to lawyers who suffered from the war.
"I immediately registered. In my email, I described my situation, that I have a first-grader child, and that we escaped from the occupation. They called me, then I submitted all the supporting documents, after which they approved financial assistance for me. I am very grateful for this", says Daria.
Over time, the couple began to realize that they would not return home soon. This forced them to arrange their lives in a new place. Daria was lucky with her job in Lviv: she went to work at the same attorney’s association she worked for in Kherson. But her husband had to change his profession from a maritime agent to a logistician of foreign economic activity. And, of course, already in Lviv, the couple's son went to the school.
Like all Ukrainians, Daria rejoiced at the liberation of Kherson in November last year, but currently, she does not plan to return there due to the security situation. Instead, in December, she managed to persuade her parents to move to Lviv. Some time after their departure, that district of Kherson came under Russian missile fire. As a result of the attack, a close friend of the parents, who lived two houses away from them, died. The parents' home was also damaged - the shelling damaged the roof.
Daria does not hide the fact that she misses her hometown and home very much.
"For everyone, his home is a place of strength. I want to come, lie down on the floor in my apartment, and just lie there", she confesses.
Many Ukrainian lawyers now need our support, so the Ukrainian Bar Association together with the Charity Fund "Kind Hearts for Ukraine" continue to implement this project. In order for as many lawyers and their families as possible to receive help, we call on patrons to join our charitable initiative. You can make a small donation by following this link.