Дети ветеранов откровенно рассказали о том, как война изменила их и их отцов
“Dad spoke military to me, and I spoke civilian to him”: teenagers remember how their fathers went to the front line and how they returned from the war.
Anya Vyhulyarna, 17, daughter of veteran Yehor Vyhulyarny (4th wave of mobilization, Detached Commando-and-assault Brigade 79) is in the Hromadske Radio’s studio, along with Vadym Kotov, 15, son of veteran Dmytro Kotov (Company-tactical Group 169, “Kiev Rus” Battallion 25), and Mykola Ilchenko, 13, son of veteran Andriy Ilchenko, Company-tactical Group 169), Hromadske Radio’s expert and initiator of “Veteran’s Hour” radio program.
Iryna Slavinska: Please tell us about yourself.
Anya Vyhulyarna: I am 17, yesterday we had the school-leaving ceremony. Independent knowledge tests and entering university are ahead of me. I’ll follow my dad’s footsteps: a military university, or law studies.
Vadym Kotov: I am 15. I graduated from Grade 9. I go in for soccer, this is my hobby.
Tetyana Troshchynska: You see yourself in soccer?
Vadym Kotov: Maybe. After I graduate from the school, I am going to the Physical Culture Institute to become a coach or an economist.
Tetyana Troshchynska: Today, Vadym’s dad runs the Marathon.
Vadym Kotov: Yes. He’s in the wheelchair so far. He runs a mile: a kilometer and 600 meters. But this is while he’s in the wheelchair. Later, he will stand fully on his own and will run on artificial limbs. When he was at the hospital, he told me often that he was going to go in for sports.
Mykola Ilchenko: I am 13. Yesterday, I had barely graduated from Grade 8. There were problems. When my father went to war, I became my mother’s helper. I babysat my little sister who was 9 months of age.
Iryna Slavinska: So you agreed with your dad?
Mykola Ilchenko: I decided so myself.
Tetyana Troshchynska: And what had Mum said to this?
Mykola Ilchenko: She told me I was an attaboy. The circumstances fell together in the way that this was needed.
Iryna Slavinska: How had you got to know that your dad was going to war?
Anya Vyhulyarna: When I got to know about this I was at an algebra class. Mum had called me and said that they were taking dad away. I was stupefied. My friends came to me and asked: “What’s this?” And I was flowing with tears. I called my dad: “Dad, where are you?” He says: “Well, I am going already, they’re taking me away.” Where to? What does this mean: taking away? What for? He told me they were taking him away for the war. And then, I was totally petrified. I am not at all used to crying but this is a painful topic. I had a long time trying to live through it.
Tetyana Troshchynska: And what had helped you cope?
Anhya Vyhulyarna: I have Mum, I have Sis, and I have to act so that they don’t feel that something went wrong.
Tetyana Troshchynska: But the pain is still there?
Anya Vyhulyarna: I think the pain will always be there. Because this being apart for eighteen months, for a year, has absolutely changed my attitude to life.
Iryna Slavinska: Has your attitude towards your dad changed?
Anya Vyhulyarna: Yes. We discussed this with him. When the third wave of mobilization came, he said: “I should go.” I and mum said: “No, Dad, what’s up with you? What for?” He says: “I will volunteer”. We were against this. Then summons came. For 48 hours we thought Dad was joking. But then it turned out this was true.
Tetyana Troshchynska: Were you offended by this decision?
Anya Vyhulyarna: No.
Tetyana Troshchynska: But what had you felt?
Anya Vyhulyarna: Understanding and fear. I knew that my dad is a good person. I knew he was not going to do anything that would make him not return. I knew he is tough, just like I am.
But Mum’s tears do grab your heart sometimes. There were cases when Mum cried because Dad would not call for 48 hours. And you don’t know how to support her. And you start to cry, the two of you, like little girls. This is the saddest thing.
Mykola Ilchenko: My Dad did it in a very cunning manner. The summons came when Mum was having a baby. Then, when the baby was born, we went shopping and left Father with the baby. So we come back, and he says that we had guests. We ask at once who they were. And he holds the summons up. We were surprized.
Iryna Slavinska: Were you offended?
Mykola Ilchenko: No, I was not. It was funny as he had not told us earlier. For two months, they were trying to take him away. He wanted to see the baby be born.
Tetyana Troshchynska: What was then? How had you changed and how you were changing?
Mykola Ilchenko: I was changing for the better. I became more self-sufficient.
Iryna Slavinska: Had your attitude towards your dad changed when he went to the front line?
Mykola Ilchenko: He began to treat our family in a rougher way. He made us do many things while he was just lying on his bed.
Vadym Kotov: I don’t even know when my Dad had the summons sent to him. Once, we were riding a car together and he told me he would go to the army in a month. When I knew this I just sat and kept silent. When Dad went somewhere, Mum got to know about this as well. At first, she was very upset. I had to calm her down.
Tetyana Troshchynska: What were you thinking about at that moment? Were you afraid? Or offended?
Vadym Kotov: No offence was there. There was fear, and there was also hope that Dad will come back. Rather, I was sure of this. He just could not just leave us that way.
Tetyana Troshchynska: Mykola has already said that he became more responsible. And what about Anya and Vadym, had you felt that you had a different role then?
Anya Vyhulyarna: Relations changed drastically. Not at once of course but gradually. We started to talk with Dad less often.
Tetyana Troshchynska: And now you are friends?
Anya Vyhulyarna: Now, yes. But during the war he either shut himself up or alienated us. I wanted to open up but I felt a kind of cold. And relations changed very much. Nevertheless, we became best friends with Mum. Though before Dad left we have practically not crossed our paths. Also, my attitude towards my sister changed. I started to somehow educate her. We have six years of age difference.
Andriy Ilchenko, father of Mykola Ilchenko, is on the phone to the Hromadske Radio’s studio.
Andriy Ilchenko: I’d like to bow my head to those children who are waiting for their fathers to come back from war. You became adults without ever realizing this. You occupied a huge role in your families when your fathers were in the East. Thank you very much for this. When you grow up and take up your place in the society, you will change this society.
Iryna Slavinska: How is it: to know that there are helpers at home while you are at the front line?
Andriy Ilchenko: I was very much pleased that my son helps my spouse and my daughter. I was sure of him one hundred percent.
Military psychologist Andriy Kozynchuk is on the phone to the Hromadske Radio’s studio.
Iryna Slavinska: What happens when one of the parents goes to war? How a family can function in order to preserve childhood for those who are in the roles of children?
Andriy Kozynchuk: It’s all very simple here. The first method is called “talking”. Talk to your children. Don’t deprive their problems of a value. Just maintain communication with your children, and you will see how wise they are; maybe wiser than you. Give a child an opportunity to express themselves. Don’t create taboos for them. Just be with your kid and support them, and you will see how cool your kid is.
Tetyana Troshchynska: But this is stress anyway?
Andriy Kozynchuk: Stress is a thing that lets you develop. People who are in completely stressless state have their psychic immunity fall. This does not mean that stress should be created. This means that children in some stressful situations should be supported.
We return to the conversation with Anya Vyhulyarna, Vadym Kotov, and Mykola Ilchenko.
Tetyana Troshchynska: Were you pleased that Mykola’s dad thanked you? Are these things important?
Anya Vyhulyarna: Very much so.
Tetyana Troshchynska: The advice that Andriy Kozynchuk gave, does it work?
Iryna Slavinska: And do you want, for example, to talk to parents at all?
Anya Vyhulyarna: You don’t always want to but this is always necessary. Because you should talk your emotions over. Let it be not your parents, let it be your sister or brother or friends. But it does not always turn out with friends the way it does with your relatives.
Tetyana Troshchynska: How does your environment treat the situation you found yourself in?
Mykola Ilchenko: When I was babysitting my sister I was not going to school.
Iryna Slavinska: What were teachers saying?
Mykola Ilchenko: They were asking: “Why are you not at school?”
Tetyana Troshchynska: Had they known the real reason?
Mykola Ilchenko: They got to know, with time. How had the students reacted? They knew about this but thought I was playing truant. Half the class turned away from me. Some began to talk to me but with time, they also left. I have few friends at school.
Tetyana Troshchynska: You were not able to replace them with something? With your court-yard friends, for instance.
Mykola Ilchenko: The same situation there. I could not find a replacement.
Tetyana Troshchynska: And you wanted this?
Mykola Ilchenko: I did, yes.
Iryna Slavinska: Vadym, how had your classmates reacted?
Vadym Kotov: When they took Dad away for the first time, only our class Master knew this. After Dad was wounded, this became known at school and at soccer. The boys were asking how things with him were, how he was feeling. And the coach was asking about this. The boys were giving me moral support.
Tetyana Troshchynska: Was it important to you that they display interest in his health and state?
Vadym Kotov: I was very much pleased.
Iryna Slavinska: And when Dad went to war had your friends noted that something had changed in the way you communicated?
Vadym Kotov: I don’t think so.
Tetyana Troshchynska: Anya, what was happening at school? What was happening with your friends?
Anya Vyhulyarna: I had never had real friends. There can be just one real friend. There can be two friends. All the rest are just acquaintances. My school friends, without realizing this, began to pity me. This is the most offensive feeling.
Tetyana Troshchynska: You don’t have to display pity?
Anya Vyhulyarna: Not towards me. When they pity me I begin to shake.
Vadym Kotov: You should not pity someone as then you feel weak.
Iryna Slavinska: And what instead of this? What’s the right way to behave?
Vadym Kotov: You should just communicate, be friends, phone, go to a park or to the movies, help with studies.
Iryna Slavinska: May one enquire about how Dad is? Does this offend?
Vadym Kotov: No.
Anya Vyhulyarna: Main thing is, not often.
Tetyana Troshchynska: I suggest we listen to a package by Hromadske Radio’s journalist, Kateryпna Kader, who recorded stories of children whose parents went to war.
[Package: My Dad Is A Hero: How Classmates Treat War Veterans’ Children?]
Hromadske Radio has talked to children of participants in combat actions who spoke about their relations with their classmates.
Artem Taran is 12. He says that he never had conflict situations with his coevals. On the contrary, they all support him and are proud that they go to the same class as the son of an ATO veteran.
“My classmates treat me very well and never offend me. They often ask me about my dad, they make greeting cards for him. I did not very much like that Dad was at war, I was worried about him,” Artem said.
On the other hand, Artem’s dad, Andriy Taran, said that it was support from school students and understanding from their parents that helped him get removed from negative emotions and come back from war to the full extent.
“When they got to know at school that I went to the ATO, support was there. And when I got demobbed, children themselves began to invite me to the school for festive days. They always ask that I only come in my uniform. The kids are good!” Andriy said.
We also talked to Anna. She is 14, and her dad had fallen at war.
“After me dad had died, I came to Grade 6. From the very start everybody pretended that they were sympathizing with me. But in reality, they were indifferent. There were no conflict situations. Sometimes they denigrated me because I was from an incomplete family, and even wrote some nonsense on the internet. But I tried not to pay attention to it because I knew the truth about my dad who had fallen in the ATO,” says Anya about her relations with her classmates.
She also said that she had not wanted to tell her mum about her difficult relations with her classmates, in order not to disturb her.
“I am the only one of this kind at the school. And sometimes it is hard because there is no one to share this problem with, except children from other schools. I kept silent, I endured everything because I knew I could not rebuff this. Then, it was just very hard for me,” Anya recalls.
The school student also told Hromadske Radio that she was able to put her relations with her classmates to order: “Very often, teachers raise this topic. They say that I am going through a very difficult period, that I am very strange, disbalanced. I often cry when they talk about war. When I remember this, I become very burdened and sad. I have put relations with practically all classmates to order. Some support me while some pretend nothing had happened.”
The All-Ukrainian Center for working with loss, “Rodynne Kolo” (Family Circle), also known as Psychology Crisis Service, provides support to families of dead soldiers; children’s groups work there, along other groups.
Yehor Vyhulyarny, father of Anya Vyhulyarna, joins the conversation.
Yehor Vyhulyarny: I want to thank these children. It is such generation, such children, such significant conclusions that they draw in their lives that our state is being built from. I’d like to ask the children how do they assess their future? To what extent the fact that your fathers went to war has changed your attitude towards your country and to your future?
Anya Vyhulyarna: Our fathers have gone through their own circle of hell. This will influence our actions when we grow up: we won’t let war, loss, pain repeat. This will be our calling in the future.
Vadym Kotov: We, as the growing generation, are learning on the basis of our parents’ mistakes. We are getting a huge experience, we have an opportunity not to let war happen in our country again.
Tetyana Troshchynska: When your dad came back, did he come back another person?
Mykola Ilchenko: Yes.
Tetyana Troshchynska: Let’s describe this.
Mykola Ilchenko: My dad became kinder. He began to listen closer. Sometimes he loves to issue commands.
Anya Vyhulyarna: When Dad came back it was much more difficult than what was happening when he was leaving. My dad was a commander there. His soldiers did toe the line there for him. I was 15 when he left, and I was 16 when he came back. He missed a year within which I had grown. But then everything somehow melted down, and Dad began to rethink everything, and relations began to get in order.
Their relations with Mum are more romantic now than they used to be previously.
Iryna Slavinska: Have you quarreled with your dad after his comeback?
Anya Vyhulyarna: Very sharply. We just did not understand each other. He was saying that I should do something. I was saying I did not have to do this. At that moment, quarrels used to start. Now, when Dad comes home menacing, I say: “Daddy, I so love you.” Or I turn everything into a joke. This does work. Now, everything will be very well with us.
Vadym Kotov: Dad became stricter after his return. He began speaking military while I spoke civilian.
Tetyana Troshchynska: What was the most important conclusion you drew from this situation?
Mykola Ilchenko: I became a true patriot. When someone in the street shouts “Glory to Ukraine”, I need to respond with “Glory to heroes.”
Anya Vyhulyarna: This war somehow brings you closer together. Many people have changed their opinions cardinally. But talking about myself, I was a patriot long before this became a mainstream thing.
Vadym Kotov: Once, I asked Dad why he had to go there. He asked: “And who will defend the country?” He was filled with patriotism. I took this from him.