I thought about things differently when my life was my own. Never did I imagine how it would feel to trade my daily life for one of uncertainty, solely because a man thought he had supremacy over me and the right to invade my country, taking my present, future, and even my past away from me.

I was trying to survive. I was suffering from a sense of loss and fear of uncertainty. I decided to run in search of a better life for myself and my family. When my mom, sister, and I were trying to find a way out of this inevitable catastrophe, we received an offer from my mom’s cousins, who live in America. They offered to help us move to the USA through a program called “Uniting for Ukraine.” After about four months of thinking, I decided to accept this chance to change the direction of my life.

I only got one small suitcase. I had to put my whole life into that case. It was a symbol, a small reminder that my life would be limited from this point on.

The first challenge for me was taking a flight by myself. I had never flown before. Never. The second challenge was to leave a country where no planes could even take off. I’d have to take a bus from Kyiv through the Ukrainian border to Poland and, from Poland, fly to America. It was very important to be on time at the airport because I couldn’t afford another ticket.

I had just one shot.

The trip to Poland took one full day and one full night. Thank God I had a friend who gave me shelter for one night in Warsaw. That way I could arrive early and ensure that I’d make it to my flight on time. Still, I had a nine-hour flight ahead of me, over the ocean to a completely strange country that I’d only ever seen in movies.

One emotional battle in my daily life of being a refugee is being away from family. It was an extremely hard decision for me to leave the people who are closest and most dear to me, let alone my beloved dog, knowing that they are spending every day, every hour, and every second of the life they have left back home on the edge of death.

Another emotional battle has been becoming, what feels like, a stranger. I am trying to have a normal and civilized life in a new place where the culture and language is entirely different! Although I’m surrounded by and speak to many people, I often think about how not very long ago I was living at home on a different continent, and my loneliness seems to grow by the day.

Adjusting to this new life has come fast. I feel like my life has been sped up. In my short time here, I’ve had to learn as quickly as possible everything that a regular American citizen has had a lifetime to learn. At the same time, it almost feels like time has come to a stop. I’ve had to be patient and ready to face a bureaucratic system that handles its decisions at a slower pace than I’ve hoped for.

However, my story and my experience as a refugee, is a light and fortunate one! I want to express my deep gratitude to God for the people whom I have met during this time. I want to give many thanks to my beloved family, my relatives who helped me come to America and get the vital documents I needed here, and my friends and people who are now helping to make my refugee experience a happy one.