I got back to the bunker, drenched in sweat. I collapsed on the floor and gasped for breath. Everyone gathered around me, asking what had happened and seeking Taras’ whereabouts. For close to ten minutes, I was unable to talk. The bunker seemed to spin before my eyes and my legs felt heavy. I eventually leaned on my elbows and in a whisper, told them what had happened to Taras. The women shrilled and the men covered their mouths in dismay. A minute of silence was observed and a short prayer was said. I handed over the items to them and sat down. I watched as they scuffled over the water, without attempting to pick one for myself. My hunger and thirst had eluded me and the only thing that clouded my mind was Taras’ head oozing with blood.
“Wheew, I managed to get two for both of us,” Lavra said while handing a bottle of water to me. I thanked her and placed it beside me.
“You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. It wasn’t your fault he got killed,” Lavra admitted.

At midnight, Osei woke everyone with the news that there was a bus transporting people from Kyiv to Lviv where they eventually crossed the border to Poland.
“How certain are you?” A woman asked.
“I read it from the internet,” Osei responded, waving his phone to no one in particular. We instantly decided to leave the bunker even though a few people had protested.
Outside, the air was warm and the streets were empty. Lavra clung to me as though I would disappear if she blinked. We walked as fast as we could while looking out for the Russian soldiers. The bus station was thirty minutes away and twenty minutes into our journey, people became exhausted and began lamenting. I urged them to keep moving and reminded them that we were just a few minutes away. We saw the bus leaving the station and we began running and screaming after it. It slowly screeched to a halt and we increased our pace. At that instant, we heard a raving engine from afar and a voice emerged from a megaphone, ordering us to stop. I turned slightly and spotted a military vehicle.
“Everyone run! It’s the military!!” I screamed. The atmosphere was soon filled with wails and the bus began moving again.
“Stop or we will shoot!” The voice threatened but we ignored it. Everyone was determined to survive or die trying. The first shot was fired and we all docked but kept running.

Soon, the vehicle got closer and gunshots rattled on. People began falling to the ground so I tightened my grip around Lavra’s hand and ran faster. Hanan and Osei overtook me and soon climbed the bus that was still in motion. A few meters away from the bus, Lavra’s hand slipped out of mine and I didn’t know she was shot until she fell to the ground. I yanked my backpack off and carried her on my back. I caught up with the bus, and with the help of Hanan, climbed in as fast as I could. Three more people, including the old man who had the stroke earlier, climbed in and the bus sped off as the shots were now aimed at it. I watched as the military captured the rest of the people we had left behind. I was overwhelmed by deep sorrow and guilt. I wished I had saved them too.

To be continued…

© Nasreen Zankawah,2024

Written by : Nasreen Zankawah

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