I am planning to evacuate to a safe place or even abroad. What should I take? What to get ready for? How to stay sane on the road? Advice from an internally displaced person who fled the war twice

Eugenia Grace
I am planning to evacuate to a safe place or even abroad. What should I take? What to get ready for? How to stay sane on the road? Advice from an internally displaced person who fled the war twice

Karolina Uskakovych / «Бабель»

After a large-scale attack by Russia, many Ukrainians had to leave towns and villages that were in the war zone. Yevhenia Grace had to flee the war for the second time already. In June 2014 she left Luhansk oblast for Kyiv. A few days ago she took an evacuation train from Darnytsia railway station (in Kyiv) to Lviv, from there to Poland, and then to Vienna. She stood in line for dozens of hours and rode standing in a crowded train. At the request of “Babel”, Yevhenia answers the main questions about the evacuation: how to pack, what to take, how to save strength and resources, and not to go crazy on the road.

Itʼs still cold outside, but inside the train, it must be warm? How should I dress?

Choose clothes and shoes that are warm and comfortable. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in the stations and queues in the cold. If your feet are sweating and often feel cold, there is a lifehack — large pads under socks. They absorb moisture and provide warmth. It saved me from complete freezing when I was waiting for 10 hours outside for the train to Poland.

I have a lot of stuff. What should I take?

First of all, documents. Take all the important ones — all passports, driverʼs licenses, documents about education and the ones for children.

You should also take light and necessary equipment: something you will need for communication and work (but only if you really need them). It is uncertain when you will be able to come back or buy new ones. Charge the power bank and take all the necessary chargers.

1.5 liters of water in a plastic bottle. Light and nutritious food. Try not to take canned food, something that spoils quickly or has extra weight due to packaging.

Take some change of clothes. You donʼt need much — but at least pants, a sweater, and a t-shirt. Also socks, underwear. the principle of the main quantities. Donʼt try to save as many of your things as possible, the most important things are your life and health.

And where to pack everything? Will a suitcase on wheels be ok?

Do not take any heavy and bulky items — strollers, large suitcases. There is a chance that you wonʼt be able to bring or put your things in the transport. Strollers and car seats, especially abroad, are provided in large numbers by volunteers. When you get off the train in Przemyśl, there is a bunch of such humanitarian aid.

Even if youʼll manage to load your luggage into the evacuation vehicle, you may break or damage it.

Also, your large things take up space that other people could fit into. And it will be extremely difficult to move around with bulky luggage in the crowd. I would like to emphasize that it is better not to take the suitcases on wheels and with pull-out handles. In the underground passage to the tracks at the Lviv railway station, I saw dozens of broken handles and wheels from suitcases. Itʼs even harder to carry a suitcase without a handle and wheels in a dense crowd, believe me.

Please, understand, no one will spare your property. Nobody cares — people get nervous and are saving their lives. Free your hands, if possible. The best options to go with are backpacks, sports bags over the shoulder, and shopper bags that can be hung on the shoulder as well. It is convenient to have a waist bag (a fanny pack), where you can put your money, passport, and phone so that they are always close and safe.

I see that the evacuation trains and buses are overcrowded. How to prepare for boarding?

Try to fold the bag in a way that it is possible to sit on it. For example, put fragile and hard things on one side, clothes on the other side. It is unknown how long you will have to wait and stand.

Also, bring a supply of medicines for chronic diseases for at least a few weeks, and for acute conditions in case you get sick on the road. It is best to have something sedative because due to panic you can make some unwise and ill-considered decisions. Also, take a few hygienic items ― wet and dry wipes, antiseptic, pads, and diapers only for the road if needed.

If menstruation is expected in the coming days, it is better to wear a pad just in case. You may not be able to do this on the road (or while standing in line), it is better to give up tampons and cups for the duration of the trip, as itʼs unknown whether it will be possible to change or empty them. Just in case, it is better to take and put bags nearby, if you or your children (or even others) will be sick. There is almost no chance that you (or someone) will be able to run to the toilet in a crowded train, where people are sitting in the aisle. I have plenty of stories about vomiting adults and children because of shaking, suffocation, and nerves — from what I saw with my own eyes or from the stories of friends who were also evacuated.

What to keep in mind on the road?

Save resources (food, water) and a phone charge. You donʼt have to constantly flip through news feeds and messengers. It will not become any easier if you know all the events in Ukraine. Especially since you may need a connection in an emergency situation.

Another piece of advice is do not argue and try to behave in a human manner. Shouting and swearing will get only shouting and swearing in response. Everyone is nervous, everyone is tired and scared. Emotional arguments, quarrels, fights, and anger are just a waste of physical and emotional resources. Whining and constant dissatisfaction with the conditions and people around are also not giving any strength. This is exhausting for you and for others. Try not to panic and, if possible, calm down people around you — “everything will be alright, this is not a torture, we have to be patient now and soon weʼll be safe”. Panic has a chain reaction and is very exhausting as well.

I am planning to go abroad. What advice would you give?

First of all, do not carry cash in UAH. You wonʼt be able to exchange it anywhere. No exchange office abroad is accepting hryvnia. Exchange it in Ukraine (however, the rate is rather unprofitable), or put it on a bank card. The best way is to put it on a card and pay with card in Europe. Especially since some Ukrainian banks have temporarily abolished the conversion fee. If you have a card for currency (USD card or EUR card) — it is better to transfer money there. In this case, you will protect your money from the unstable exchange rate, which will probably only increase.

If you travel by car, toll roads for cars with Ukrainian registration in Europe are free. If the car has a foreign registration, you still have to pay

You need to be careful and cautious upon arrival abroad. Volunteers, police, military, territorial defense, and border guards help to understand the directions, transport, and other things. If you donʼt have anyone expecting you, do not get in a car with strangers, even if they say they are volunteers. First of all, talk to volunteers (those who wear badges and vests) or law enforcement officers if you donʼt know what to do next. If volunteers pick up Ukrainians with private cars, they have to sign documents and talk to the police beforehand. No one takes anyone just like that.

If you are persistently offered a ride without any signed documents, refuse and stay away from these people. It is better to be near the police and official volunteers. There have been frequent reports from the government, human rights organizations, and other refugees that pimps are abducting women (and even children). Crime is on the rise in every crisis, and women and children are the most vulnerable in this situation. Also, keep an eye on your belongings in lines and at the train stations. It is better to put the most valuable — passport, money, and phone — in an inside pocket or bag and hide under clothes.

In any extreme situation, it is important to remain calm and have a clear plan of action. Babel will help with up-to-date and verified information. And you, if possible, help us with a donation .