Melissa Harris-Perry: Welcome back to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. This month, the UN announced there are more than seven-and-a-half million Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe. Nearly one-third of all Ukrainians have been displaced, among them a 12-year-old girl named Yeva. Now, Yeva kept a diary of her long journey, a journey which began when she looked out of her grandmother's bedroom window and saw bombs falling on Kharkiv. Yeva made it safely to Ireland to live with a host family who met her and her grandmother at the airport.
Woman: We kind of know what she looks like, don't we?
Man: Oh, look. Yeva.
Melissa Harris-Perry: When I spoke with Yeva, she began by reading from her diary, which is now a book titled, You Don't Know What War is: The Diary of a Young Girl from Ukraine.
Yeva: Everyone knows the word war, but very few people understand what it truly means. You might say that it's horrible and frightening, but you don't know the scale of where it brings. When you suddenly find you have to face it, you feel totally lost, walled in by fright and despair. All of your plans are suddenly interrupted by destruction. Until you've been there, you don't know what war is.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Thank you. Now, Yeva, let's just start today. What have you been doing today? Have you been doing anything fun?
Yeva: Today I've been in school. I actually really like to study in the school. Every lesson is in English and it's so interesting for me because that's a new language for me. Today in Ireland was actually ordinary day, but not for Ukraine and not for my city.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Have you always kept a diary?
Yeva: No, I never kept a diary because I never even suspected I could become an author. When I got-- This is my old book for writing, it was just lying on the shelves and I didn't even use this. Then since the war, I started keeping diary. It was first time.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Tell me about the window in your grandma's apartment.
Yeva: This window was looking toward the Russian boarder. We lived in the end of the city, so we could see the field. First day when the war started, I saw my grandma near the window that she was looking toward the Russian border, how missiles were flying. It was so terrifying.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What did you do to try to feel safe?
Yeva: The first day of war, I didn't feel safe, but it was a huge tension in my spirit and everybody had the tension. We were so worried what will be next. We didn't know what to do in this situation. In the basement, we were trying to play some games with children from other apartments from my neighborhood. We try just don't think about explosion and just try to play.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Before the invasion, what were the kinds of things you were thinking about?
Yeva: We just had a rumors about the war, but we just thought, "Oh, maybe it's just rumors so nothing would happen," and we will continue live a normal life. For me, it was peaceful days, peaceful sky. For me, it wasn't nothing special. Now, that's changed my mind and now I'm happy every day that the sky is peaceful in Ireland, of course. It's so painful to know that bombing has not stopped in Ukraine.
Melissa Harris-Perry: You take us through each day, and on day nine, you and your grandmother made it to a school gym. Can you tell me who you met?
Yeva: When we arrived, we just needed to understand what's going on . There's this person who wanted to speak with me, but I wasn't ready. Then my grandmother introduced me. She said that I'm wrote a diary since first days of war and they started to interest in and they made first report into Channel 4. It was first time that I shared what was in my diary.
Melissa Harris-Perry: The reporter from Channel 4 helped you to leave Ukraine for Ireland, is that right?
Yeva: Yes. They proposed us to go France or Ireland, but Ireland was really good opportunity because the people here speaks English. I speak English not so bad, so we decided to go to the Ireland.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yeva, you speak English beautifully. You've talked about your friends a couple of times with me, and you write about them a lot in the book. Why does that matter telling your friends stories?
Yeva: I think that's important as well to hear other voices from children that lived through. Sometimes they even described the same details as me. For example, when it was seventh day of the Russian invasion, my friend, she described how the drone was flying and made circle dropping the bombs as I described it as well, the same.
For me, it was really important to know their feelings because we just could share, because we couldn't keep this in our soul because it would be just damage in. I think, of course, it's important that the world will hear my story, will hear our stories and maybe the world will understand even a little bit how child live through the war and what child feels when starts war.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yeva, know about two months after the war started, someone offered to go back and get some things that were left behind. What did you want back?
Yeva: I asked him to just take some clothes and oil paints that my granddad he gifted me in New Year. For me, it was, of course, important that this long [unintelligible 00:07:39] is survived and she's in safe place now.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yeva, do you dream at night about home?
Yeva: Actually, I really miss home, but I know that there is so danger there. Many apartments are destroyed and we have no where to back. I really hope that when everything will rebuild and when in Ukraine will be safe, I really hope to back and see my friends. I really, really hope that the world will stop someday very soon.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Our thanks to Yeva Skalietska, author of You Don't Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl from Ukraine.
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