Silence | Teen Ink


October 22, 2022
By TeenSide BRONZE, Kyiv, Other
TeenSide BRONZE, Kyiv, Other
3 articles 2 photos 0 comments

“Inha stay home don't go anywhere,” says a text message at 7 AM. Then, a missed call.
That message was the first thing I saw that morning.
“Don’t freak out”
“The war is here”
“They’ve been bombing Ukraine since 5”
This had to be a joke, or an overstatement, or a misunderstanding, or a dream, anything but reality. I woke my sister up. I called my mom, and asked where she was, and cried.
I think our mom and dad went to buy food and meds. I think I got a text from an American friend. He said he was sorry. I think everyone started saying they were sorry.
I didn’t understand much; I read messages and listened to stories of those who woke up to air raid sirens or explosions. I think I was the only one who slept right through the whole night. Thanks to my antidepressants.
There’s a lot more of what I think happened, than what I remember happened. My doctor says it’s dissociation. It’s like there’s a wall between my memory and reality. It protects me, keeping the worst things out of my view.
It got worse as the evening came. It felt like the previously unfamiliar sounds of explosion were rapidly closing in, creeping up behind us. We started packing our things, just in case. We packed suitcases and bags and backpacks. It felt like, if we were going to go to a shelter, we would stay there forever. Darkness brought fear, fear that you can’t cover with sticky tape as we did with window panes.
Around midnight, I finally ate something. It turned out that eating is really, really important. As well as watching something besides the news, trying to speak, chatting with people, walking around. Our parents and grandpa went to bed, but I couldn’t. I felt it, just there outside the window. The beast. Bringing panic, forcing us to stay home; then moving away briefly, giving us a chance to escape. I felt like this was my chance to run away. I wasn’t sure what from.
I remember the first time I heard the explosions. There were three. They went off at 04:19 in the morning; at 04:22, I was waking the whole family up. That was the first night in a couple of months that I didn’t take my meds. That was a night when I didn’t sleep for a minute. That was a night when I was alone, as everyone else decided to go back to sleep. That was the longest night of my life. That night still isn’t over.
Around 7 AM, I heard my first sirens. I hear them constantly now, a couple of times every day. I fall asleep to them, and I wake up to them. The world around me is blurry, it’s foggy, like when you have an anxiety attack. It was then that we finally decided to go to the shelter. We put our things down on the floor of the underground parking garage, and something new emerged, something hiding inside every loud noise. I lay down in my jacket, a comfy pullover and my jeans that I wouldn’t take off the whole next week. I stared at a car tire and I kept saying, quietly, “It’s okay”.
When we returned to the apartment, it was really our home; same as before, no shattered windows, no walls broken down like I had imagined. I looked in the bathroom mirror; I saw my body different, a little smaller, a little thinner. I didn’t eat for nine hours, didn’t sleep during the day, skipped my meds again. We only stayed home for half an hour before the next sirens went off. We walked to the shelter for the second time, along with our neighbours. It felt like I was the only one who wasn’t okay. It felt like the explosions had found their way in and were now inside. I had flashes in my eyes. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like the air itself, and the people around me, and the concrete walls, everything was against me. I threw up bile on the lawn of this fancy building with underground parking. I felt a bit better afterwards. We found the same spot where we stayed the previous time. I laid down on a blanket and started into the wall; the car from before was gone.
That day, we went down into the shelter four or five more times, and then the night came, and we stayed home. I finally took my medicine and went to sleep inside our bathtub. Before falling asleep, I prayed for the first time in my life. I begged for everyone to stay alive and thanked our army for me being able to sleep and eat. I spent the next night in the bathtub as well. After that, I moved to the floor of our corridor. They say it's the safest place in most apartments. The corridor became our new little home where we ate, and read the news, and slept and stayed in hiding.
There was a night when the explosions got extremely loud. It felt like a missile hit our own building. I texted a friend then, saying that I loved her and would always love her. And then, there was silence.
As the daytime came, the silence exploded with more missiles, the sirens, the news, the calls and the texts, the terror, the anxiety, and the pain and the anger. In the end, we decided to run away. To leave our home. We got everything that could fit in the car. I think I didn’t make my bed. I think I left my sweaters lying around on the floor. I think the sticky tape is still on the window panes. I think the little magnets on our fridge are still in an uneven heart shape. I used to know exactly which shelf my favourite book was on; I’m not sure about that anymore.
The silence turned out to be that beast that never sleeps. It’s a predator you recognize by the growl of the loudspeakers. Even when you hide behind walls, the beast follows. You can only hope; hope that it doesn’t break into your home, break down the walls, and shatter the windows. Hope that it stays contained within your dreams, and loud noises, and memories.

The author's comments:

Story by Inha Marchenko. Inha is a 16-year-old student who was born and raised in Kyiv. She was forced to flee from the war to a small town in the south of the Kyiv region, where her father was born.

Translation from Ukrainian by Alice Haida.

This story is part of the “Wake up, the war is here” series. The project collects, translates, and shares with the world documentary stories written by teens and young adults of Ukraine who are now living through the war. It is run by Ukrainian cultural organisation "withoutgaps" and youth editorial team "TeenSide". You can contact us at or on Instagram @teenside_bezprobiliv.

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