Tatiana Tverdoklib

Ukraine

Tatiana was 10 years old when she was taken by the Ukrainian government into custody of the state. Her father was an abusive alcoholic, her mother worked multiple jobs and was unable to care for her and her younger brother. She grew up in an orphanage, disconnected from her parents, but at the same time finding a sense of family.

When Tatiana aged out of the orphanage, she re-established ties with her mother. She was at home when the war started with intense bombing of her village. Her dormitory in Kharkiv was bombed. The orphanage she grew up in was bombed…

Tatiana was part of a program that orphanage ran with a charity in Italy that had Ukrainian children spend summers in Italy with foster families. It would end up being her lifeline. The charity helped Tatiana get out, and with her Tatiana’s friend Angela and Angela’s little boy.

“I almost didn’t leave, but I also wanted to save Angela and her son. I’m his godmother. My mother was crying and telling me to flee, and I just couldn’t let her go”. She says. “She refuses to leave our house, our animals, our vegetables. Its all she has in the world. And she refuses to leave my stepfather behind.”

Being in Italy is surreal, for Tatiana its like she’s living in a split reality. She’s physically safe, just outside of Milan, but her soul, her mind is constantly in Ukraine. She wakes up every morning and checks the alerts on her phone, air raid alerts, death toll alerts. Her nerves are frayed each day until she receives messages from those she loves; her mother, step father, brother, friends. Already seven people she knows have been killed, among them some of her closest friends. Just months ago they were laughing over glasses of wine, going to karaoke, working and studying together.

She doesn’t believe in dreams or wishes. That was taken from her a long time ago.

“There is no need to dream or live with your head in the clouds. I create goals.” She says.