Tears are repeated in the eyes of grandmother Yevgenia Mishchenko. She sits in the living room of her new home, in Terrugem, in Sintra, and confesses that she never believed Russia could invade Ukraine. “When they told me: There will be war, there will be war, I didn’t want to believe it,” he says.
In the 77 years of his life, he overcame many difficult situations, but nothing compares to the last days spent in Ukraine. In addition to dealing with memories of the war, Evgenia has been following the suffering of her 13-year-old granddaughter Yana, who when she is not in school is locked in her room. “He hasn’t talked yet about what he’s watching, he just wants to paint,” says Grandma.
It was hard to understand how Yana was feeling about changing her life. Grandmother and father cannot interpret the drawings and cannot determine whether, perhaps, there is a connection between what they draw and what they lived in.
It was complicated, because, in addition to what she saw now, she was already suffering from an old trauma. And from the window we saw everything dead on the road … She saw everything. He was sitting with us and not sleeping. I did not sleep in those days and neither did she, she was very worried.
When war broke out in Ukraine, Yana was still grieving for her mother, who had died five years earlier. Since then, the young woman has become more conservative and going to war does not help the recovery process. The treatment was paper and ink.
Most of the drawings drawn and drawn by Yana are women. The female portrait is most present in the notebook, “probably because of what happened to the mother,” as the father, Sergey believes.
Since moving to Portugal, Yana has painted only one picture of Ukraine. It’s a landscape, “a picture he kept and saw from his bedroom window,” says his father. The painting on the desk next to the living room depicts the forest that was next to the Myshchenko family’s house in Irbin, on the outskirts of Bucha, five kilometers from Kyiv.
In Ukraine, her father invested in expensive materials and paints that had to be left, as well as all the paintings and photographs of paintings made by Yana.
Sergei Mishchenko burned all the materials – paintings, drawings, notes by Yana – and deleted photos and videos so that the Russian troops had nothing to get involved in.
In Portugal, her passion for painting helped Yana to recover part of her work. With the help of several associations and friends, Yana was able to build a small workshop in the living room of the house, using the paints and blocks that were offered to her. There are drawings painted with brushes and others with spoons.
Ten days and a “lair”
The Michenko family lived in Irbin, on the outskirts of Bucha, five kilometers from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, one of the most attacked cities at the beginning of the war.
When our building was cordoned off, I thought it was tractors. Then I saw that it was Russian tanks. They entered the apartments, broke the door, and threw grenades. A Chechen came to our building, the men were in the basement and threatened them. The guys left with arms raised up and my son asked him not to hurt me and Yana, ”says Evgenia Mishchenko.
On that day the nightmare began. The Myshchenko family and their neighbors were all put into the “hideout” of the building – an area of \u200b\u200babout four square meters for 54 people. At the entrance to the building, a command post for Russian troops was established. The entrance to the “basement” was under the control of a military man.
From a small window they could see the devastation caused by the clashes. In the early days, the neighbors gathered together and, using wood, arranged some beds for them to rest. The “dungeon” pantry turned into a bath, and inside, they put a bucket.
“Every day someone puts a white tape on their arm and asks them to come out and empty the bucket,” says Evgenia.
However, there were neighbors who did not enter the “hideout”. According to the Meshchenko family, the men were placed in a separate room, where they were forced to undress. Those with tattoos denoting Ukrainian symbols were placed in another room, and the rest were allowed to enter the “cellar”. To this day, no one knows what happened to neighbors with tattoos referring to Ukraine.
For ten days, they were locked in the basement of the building without light, water, and food. Water is now allowed. Similar to what they did with the bucket in the bathroom, every day someone would put a white ribbon on the rope to go buy water.
Evgenia Mishchenko says that the army did not bother women and children much, but says that explosions and gunshots were constantly heard in the dugout. “I was basically afraid to turn my back on them, because they might attack me in the head,” he admits.
The few times the men went out to smoke or do service to the Russian troops.
Next to the city there is a forest. They ordered our men to bury the bodies of the people who had been beaten and who had been lying in the streets for about a week. And when the men were burying the bodies, they began to bombard. Thank God they were able to save themselves.
The corpses lay in trenches in backyards and on the streets of Irvine for more than a week. Many were neighbors and acquaintances of the Mishchenko family.
Evgenia admits that she did not stop thinking about what happened to one of the neighbors who buried her son in the backyard.
“The young man left the house and in his bag only the paper he had obtained for calling him to the Ukrainian forces. On the street, a Russian interrogated him, when he found the newspaper, he killed him. She asked this neighbor to come to our “hideout”, but she did not want to, because she no longer wanted to save itself,” he says.
The neighbor ended up staying behind. The green light came to leave the city of Irvine on March 14. Russian forces gave the Myshchenko family and their neighbors 15 minutes to reorganize. Soon they drove 14 cars out of the city.
Before leaving, the Russian troops seized all the mobile phones and goods in the “bunker”. At that moment, Father Sergei breathed a sigh of relief after erasing all the videos and photos he had taken of the ruined streets of Irpin and the bodies lying on the ground.
But the main relief was the burning of Yana’s diary, in which the young woman wrote every day what she imagined about what was happening from the “hideout”. The family lost all evidence of the destruction and suffering caused by the invasion, but did not hesitate to leave everything behind, even the house, the new apartment, which had recently been purchased.
From Irbin to Sintra
Jana Erpin’s family left on March 14 in cars decorated with white flags.
The 14-car convoy followed by 54 people into the bunker was traveling from Irbin to Zaskiv, a town more than 160 kilometers away. As soon as they arrived in Zhaskiv, the Mishchenko family was contacted by the parents of Yana’s friend who lived in Portugal.
“Ihor called and said we had to come to Portugal. He said volunteers would help us,” says grandmother Evgenia. From Zhaskiv, Evgenia, Sergey and Yana they continued their journey to Rivne and managed, on March 17, to cross the border into Poland.
Despite the fact that in Ukraine martial law is in force that prevents men from leaving, Sergey, as the first responsible for Yana, was allowed to leave. Having been in Poland, they quickly joined a humanitarian convoy that took them to Portugal. After four thousand kilometers, they reached Cascais on March 22.
In Portugal, they were welcomed by their friendly family who welcomed them into their home for two weeks until Sergei found a job.
Evgenia is still sitting in her living room, talking about Portugal with a smile on her face.
“I want to thank you very much. The Portuguese are good and the Ukrainians are here. With their help everything is much easier. Without the help of the Portuguese, I don’t know what would happen to us. Help comes from all sides and it’s impossible to see and not break down in tears,” says Evgenia, her eyes tearing up.
Through numerous searches, Sergei Mishchenko found the Association of Ukrainians in Portugal, which helped him find work as a mason, the same profession that he had in Ukraine.
The company at Trogem, in Sintra, provided an annex behind the factory for the family to live in. Small house with kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and bathroom. Although the conditions do not correspond to the standard of living with which they live in Ukraine, the family does not even think about returning to the country.
“Here we are better, it is calmer. It was already impossible to live well in Ukraine. Our heart is here.” Grandma says.
The family knows that their apartment in Irpen is still intact. He is one of the few who survived. Because it served as a command post for the Russian forces, it was never attacked,” asserts the family, who avoids thinking about what he left behind.
The focus is now on finding help for Yana.
Children traumatized by war. And now?
Like Yana, many of the children arrived with growing reservations and shock about what is happening in Ukraine. There are often doubts about how or not to address the topic. In Yana’s case, it was her father who ensured these conversations, but he had not yet succeeded in getting the young woman to open up completely.
The head of the College of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of the Physicians’ Union and the Physician of the Regional Health Department of the Center reports that some requests for help have already been received.
Paulo Baptista dos Santos explains that, since it is a recent situation, it is still necessary to understand how to target support for these young people who arrive with mental disorders. “There are children who left their parents there, they came alone and that raises problems,” explains the child psychiatrist.
According to Paulo Baptista dos Santos, the first approach should always be taken by parents or guardians who accompany children. “If young people refuse to help, guidance should be provided by parents and guardians who will also have to be guided,” he explains.
The child psychiatrist says there is no certainty whether this generation will be a generation marked by war. “Recovering from trauma will always depend on the young people and the context in which they are placed. Speaking of a very complex situation, if there is a greater normalization of social contacts with friends and family, the situation will be overcome more easily,” says Paulo Baptista dos Santos.
At the center’s regional health department, the mental health office has already assembled a working group examining the best way to help these children. Paulo Baptista dos Santos says that cooperation with schools and city councils will make it possible to identify cases that need help, but the problem that may arise is communication.
“For the consultation, we will need interpreters, because many Ukrainians do not speak English and most professionals do not speak Ukrainian. Here we will have to rely on the cooperation of Ukrainians who have been living in Portugal for a few years,” he explains.
Nationally, the National Health Service has provided consultations for young people and children in Ukraine Dona Estefania Hospital in Lisbon. The service is provided every day with guaranteed translations. The RenaissanceThe hospital administration adds that it has already received more than 500 contacts and that there are already many Ukrainian teenagers being followed up in psychiatric services. The line is still available by calling 967059865.