"My mother said to me and my brother, 'That's the end of your childhood.

Photo from the personal archive of the hero's mother

Ivan (name changed) is 15 years old. His text, with Ivan's permission, was sent to our editorial office by his mother. The family lived in Tomsk in a private newly built house. Before the war Ivan studied at one of the best schools in the city, went to the gym, in his free time he read and played video games. Two weeks after Russia's massive invasion of Ukraine, Ivan's parents left the country with their children. Here is his story:   

- That was far back in 2017. On my way home from school to my grandmother's house, I watched the distant high-rises on the South Circle hidden in the haze. Those Soviet-assembled, gray, old buildings hung with bulky, bright, cheap, wall-to-wall advertisements for the micro-loan office. I remember this wistful landscape - simultaneously imbued with an inexplicable nostalgia for that carefree time for me then, stupid and unappreciative of what I had. For me, who dreamed of coming home and sitting down for a few hours to play the story-driven, intellectually scarce products of the time-eating slag conveyor called mobile gaming.

At the time, I couldn't even imagine how I would have to leave the place where I was born and lived for 15 years. Everything and Everyone of those. I didn't value my life, I didn't value being with family, friends, people who understood me at least in part. I ignored their love and attention. But now, having lost it, I have begun to truly appreciate it.

Before, before we left Russia, I did not think about the future, I lived and enjoyed the present. Now I am drowning in a future that could happen, but doesn't, destroying myself unable to stop these thoughts.

I remember the days when I didn't want to go to music school, to the skiing section, to the swimming pool. I was lazy, I felt sorry for myself, I was stupid. And who knows, maybe someday I'll say the same thing about my present self. I kill myself remembering the view out the window of our house - the wall of forest without leaves, the white, glistening blanket of snow that covers the field, which in summer can be strewn with flowers peeking through the tall weeds. I remember the smell of wood logs soaking into our house.

I will never forget that day. I woke up in the morning and went out of my room to the window. The weather was beautiful. I was admiring the familiar February landscape. My mother came out of the next room and said: "The war has begun." I do not remember my reaction, I did not fully realize the scale of the tragedy that awaited millions of people, but there was genuine fear on my mother's face.

I went to school. For the first few days, I didn't notice anything unusual. For the most part, people didn't care about what was going on a few thousand kilometers away. They just went on with their lives. But after a few days, I began to notice signs of their concern. The other kids at school were calling the people their country had attacked Nazis, Banderites, wishing them dead."Kiev in three days," they said.

It was like my life was interrupted. Every time I watched my parents break down, it was as if everything in me froze. I was very tired. It is safe to say that those were the hardest days of my conscious life. Even before the war started, I was periodically paranoid about our security. But now it had reached a new level. All I could think about was what we would do if mobilization was announced. In March there were rumors that the commander-in-chief was about to announce it.

I remember my reaction after my mother said as if through force (I could feel her pain): "We're leaving." I didn't believe it at first.

We sold the cars in one day, packed everything we could carry in our suitcases, got into Dad's friend's car, and drove to the airport.

 When we crossed the border checkpoint on our way out of Russia, my mother said to my brother and me, "That's the end of your childhood. Earlierthan it should have been.

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