My name is Natalia Rodzikhovskaya, and I am Ukrainian.
On February 24, like many Ukrainians, I woke up to the sound of powerful explosions. We learned that a fragment of a rocket flew into a neighbouring house. I remember how my husband said urgently: “The war has begun. We are being shelled. We need to collect everything, and we need and leave.”
At first, it seemed that this was a terrible dream, and I was about to wake up. It is still difficult for me to reconstruct the whole chain of events of that day because I could not believe the reality of what was happening. In 15 minutes, we packed a backpack and left the apartment. Emotions flooded my senses: fear, despair, and inability to think of what to do next.
In the morning I called my sister Victoria and persuaded her to come with us to a safe place. From Kyiv, we went to relatives in the Vinnytsia region. On the way to Vinnytsia, I saw tanks with young men, no more than 17 years old, it was frightening, and everything was floating in a fog. My husband closed his eyes and pinched himself once more trying to make sure that this was not a dream. It wasn’t and he calmed and comforted me.
Long lines formed on the road. The city seemed frozen, silent, and motionless. It takes two hours to drive from Kyiv to Vinnytsia. But on that day, it took 8 hours. On the way to Vinnytsia, my husband Dmitry called up relatives and looked for any way to help them. He was the only one of us who was thinking rationally and logically at that moment.
We spent a week with relatives in the Vinnytsia region. I helped my uncle look after the children, and Dima volunteered for the Territorial Defence to defend the city. During that time, I discovered fears that I had not known. I saw the terrible power capable of destroying people, depriving them of their homes and everything that they had.
It became unsafe to remain in Vinnytsia, and Dima insisted that I leave Ukraine. I did not want to leave my country and I did not want to leave my husband, but I had to. The war has separated us, and for the past three months, I have only seen him via video link.
On the first day of the war, our friends in Canada offered to help and invited us to stay with them. It was decided that we travel to Poland, prepare documents, and leave for Canada for an indefinite period. We lived in Warsaw for a month while we were processing the visa. During our stay in Poland, I felt support never before encountered, and boundless kindness and help.
Today, my sister and I live in Merrickville with Richinda Bates and her family. They have opened their home from the first days of the war, and support us morally and financially, for which I am very grateful.
Every day in Ukraine, children and innocent people die at the hands of Russian invaders. It is difficult for me to see how a huge number of children have been maimed and orphaned, how women give birth in basements, and how people lose their homes and their loved ones.
For a long time, I could not pull myself together and live in the reality of today, here, in Canada. With Richinda’s support and that of Southgate, I can apply my talent and support my country. I realized that it doesn’t matter in which country one may find oneself, but it matters what you do to make Ukraine free and independent.
In Ukraine, I sewed children’s clothes and planned to develop my own brand. Now I sew T-shirts and products with Ukrainian symbols, and the bulk of the funds go to support Ukraine. On Sundays, we are at the Kemptville outdoor market, selling Ukrainian delicacies and my products to support those still in Ukraine.
Natalia Rodzikhovskaya is a talented children’s clothes designer and seamstress. She lived in Kyiv with her husband Dimitry, who now serves in the Territorial Defence Forces.