On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion on our country. We are in awe of Ukraine’s bravery, strength, and resilience. In this series, we share the stories of our Scalarr colleagues who are trying to find a war-life balance at the moment.
Anastasia Granko, CSM/Integration Lead:
In the early hours of February 24, 2022, every inhabitant of Kharkiv heard the horrific sounds of bombings and explosions. Soon enough, we realized that not only Kharkiv but all of Ukraine was subjected to Russian aggression and we knew, without a doubt, that the war had begun.
As I was trying to make sense of it all, my phone began to burst with messages from friends, my Scalarr colleagues, and acquaintances, all reporting numerous shellings. “This can’t be real, this can’t be happening” was the thought that kept going through my mind. I had a hard time pulling myself together or deciding what my next move would be. The only productive thing I managed to accomplish that day was taping my windows.
My dear and beloved Kharkiv was subjected to relentless enemy fire. The government introduced a curfew, and what was once a bustling and lively city of millions of people, was now empty, with all lights snuffed out.
From day one of the war, our Scalarr team has been in constant communication, always keeping close tabs on the whereabouts of every member, as well as sharing tips, news, and help trying to evacuate. They were, and continue to be, a beacon of hope and strength during a time where everyone felt sad, helpless, and in shock.
Inna Ushakova, Scalarr’s CEO, quickly began to help the entire team evacuate or find safe locations to stay and remain safe. In my case, I stayed with my parents who, old-aged and set in their ways, refused to leave their apartment, sleeping fully dressed in case we had to leave quickly.
When a Russian missile struck a government building not far from my parent’s home, we left our home immediately and went to a hideout spot that our dear neighbor, Elena, had told us about. We spent a few days in hiding but the situation grew worse and worse with some districts having severe electricity, water, gas, and internet outages.
Panic shrouded the city. Vehicles and fuel became the city’s most valuable and expensive commodities. The cost of transportation services skyrocketed. Everything felt like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. But this wasn't a Hollywood blockbuster movie, this was our day-to-day now.
It was time to make tough decisions. After a careful (and painful) family consensus, we decided to separate from my parents. My sister and I would run to the railway station while simultaneously trying to find another safe option for our parents. We hugged them and promised each other to make it out alive, reunite, and celebrate Ukraine’s victory.
God heard our prayers. Not only did my sister and I manage to get to the railway station alive, but my parents, along with the shelter owner, her mother, three cats, and a dog managed to evacuate safely.
All of this was made possible by the immeasurable, invaluable support of Inna Ushakova, CEO and co-founder of Scalarr. She acted and reacted as one would expect a great leader would. She went above and beyond to help each and every one of us at Scalarr to find safe evacuation routes and places to stay. There are not enough words that can fully convey the amount of gratitude my family and I feel toward her for the help she provided during the most difficult of times.
Our journey from Kharkiv to Lviv was arduous. Trains were packed, spending close to 25 hours on the floor of a train car. The trip from Lviv to Przemyśl was even more challenging as thousands of women with kids had been staying for 4-5 hours in line to ride the train.
For hours, we didn’t hear from anyone or received any updates. We were all in a closed train car with food and water supplies rapidly running out. Tension grew by the minute with one pregnant woman having to be rushed out by an ambulance after having an episode of high blood pressure.
After two days, we finally made it to Przemišel. Polish people welcomed us with hot plates of food, drinks, sweets, all the essentials one could hope for, personal hygiene and care products, as well as blankets, pillows, and more.
Once in Opole, we settled into what would be our new life for the foreseeable future. We met wonderful people who welcomed us with open arms such as Bartek Baniak, his wife Sandra, his parents Yan Baniak, and Bozena Baniak, and his two beautiful daughters, Magda and Olya. I will never forget the warmth, kindness, and care we received from them or how grateful I am that fate would have us meet.
Looking back, I can say that the first two months were the hardest. It wasn’t until May that I finally accepted the situation, decided to stop crying, and consider what to do with my life next.
As always, the Scalarr team stayed in close contact and helped me and others navigate the uncertainty of the war. We kept open channels of communication to share who needed help evacuating, which places were safe, who managed to get out or not, and more. All of which are actions that I value and feel enormously grateful for. My colleagues, Inna, and Scalarr as a whole provided the strength and support all of us needed.
It is because of them that I quickly learned how small actions lead to big results. While still in a state of shock, it was unimaginable to return to an eight-hour working day but it was crucial that we support each other and our country by staying active and contributing with every little bit that we could. A simple “how are you?” or “can I help you with anything?” to one of your colleagues made all the difference.
I would also like to wholeheartedly thank the leadership team at Opole University, represented by the Rector, Professor Marek Masnyk. A huge number of Ukrainians were sheltered and cared for with excellent living conditions as well as meals. Also, I’d like to extend my gratitude to the administration board, coaching staff, and the UNI Opole Volleyball Club players.
Special thanks to the President of the Refereeing Commission of the Polish Volleyball Federation, Mr. Wojciech Maroszek, who allowed my sister to continue doing what she loves the most - volleyball refereeing.
I am genuinely grateful to every citizen of Poland who helped Ukrainians during these extraordinarily horrific events. Your support and help are invaluable and together we will win!
Glory to Ukraine! Glory to our heroes!