Denys Byzov, a Kyiv resident and Humanity & Inclusion’s cultural mediator in Ukraine, shares his experience evacuating his family in armed conflict.
My name is Denys, and I am a medical doctor and surgeon by profession in Ukraine. For the last few years, I have worked as a clinical trials specialist. Then, at the end of February, my life changed.
The night of Feb. 24, I woke up to loud noises outside. There were large rocket attacks and bombings in Kyiv.
Over the next few days, my family—my wife, relatives and my small baby—were very scared. We didn’t understand what was going on or what to do; it was all so unexpected. We thought there had just been an accident or something. We couldn’t believe that it was a war, so we stayed for a few days in Kyiv. The rocket attacks and bombings continued, and we started to realize that a war had begun and was getting worse every day. We evacuated from the capital and headed to the western part of the country.
Normally it only takes a few hours to get here by car, but it took us two days. There were so many people headed to the west, and so much traffic. We saw a lot of families traveling with children and many cars were broken down on the road because there was no more gas.
There were bombings behind us for almost the whole way, so it was stressful for me and very scary for my family. We didn’t know whether or not we could be targeted.
Caglar Tahiroglu, Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency mental health and psychosocial support manager, and Denys Byzov, Humanity & Inclusion's cultural mediator, in Chernivtsi, Ukraine.
The need to feel safe
After some discussions, we decided that my family should evacuate abroad while I stay here. The borders are closed for men, so only women and children can leave the country. So, we celebrated my baby’s first birthday separately. At the moment, they are in Germany.
My pregnant sister and my mother had to go abroad for safety reasons and to get medical care for the pregnancy. My father is a doctor, living in a hospital in Kharkiv, and every night he sleeps in the shelter under constant bombing to feel a little safer.
I do not consider myself a victim. There are so many people who have faced violence and whose family members died, so there are people in much more difficult situations than I am right now. It’s very important for me to support people in such a critical situation. It’s important to be included in the response and help each other. I found Humanity & Inclusion, and asked if I could help somehow, and they accepted me as cultural mediator and translator.
I hear stories from other people. The parents of my former colleague stayed in Mariupol, where the city is completely destroyed. Over 80% of the buildings are gone. There is no connection with them, no phone calls and no internet. She does not know if her parents are alive or not, or if they have been evacuated. This is only one of many stories like this. They have hope, but that’s all.
At least I know that my family is safe at the moment. I think this is the greatest need for people: to feel that they are safe and know that their loved ones are safe.
I have my feelings, but then I have my understanding—and they are different. I hope that it will finish soon, of course. But, I don’t think it will. The number of displaced people is growing every day. There is not enough space for them here, and there is more and more need.
I would like to thank all of the people who are supporting us during such a critical and dramatic situation. We deeply value your help and we can feel your support. This is a very difficult and unexpected situation for all of us affected by this war, so thank you. Thank you a lot.