If/when we come back

I saw a post on Instagram of a Ukrainian prisoner who had just returned home from russian captivity. This paper has the inscription «If/when we come back» (the word “if” was crossed out). In the post, he also wrote, «This phrase we kept correcting in conversations with each other in captivity.» This phrase is about the faith that keeps the human spirit in strength and hope, which keeps you even when you are far from home.

I cannot speak for the experience of prisoners, but I can speak for my experience as a refugee. It has been almost two years since I left my own home due to the full-scale russian invasion of Ukraine. I met the first days of the war in this hoodie and fled Ukraine in it as well. I was in that hoodie in a completely packed train and saw how children slept on the floor, how some people could no longer be taken on the train due to lack of seats and how parents simply gave their children away. I stood in it in the winter in the cold at the Lviv railway station in a crowd of confused people who were in a panic and were losing hope that the evacuation train would come and take us to nowhere. From that moment on, not a day went by that I didn’t think about home. I often wondered if I would ever be able to return home.

I often lost hope and thought «if» instead of «when».

This phrase gives me hope all these endless days. While in England, I embroidered this phrase on the hoodie. I came to Ukraine several times during this time and I left this hoodie there. I hope that when I come back…I will come back…and all Ukrainian prisoners too.

March 2023, Emsworth, UK:
In the background is the house I have been living in from July 2022 until now
February 26-28, 2022. Photos from the days when my family and I were escaping from Ukraine.
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