My hardest trip
home to Ukraine

Anna Nabiulina
November 20, 2022

Day 3

After a night of little sleep we continued our journey at 5AM. On the way we received a number of requests from those with family in Kherson and so had to make purchases from a number of stores. Outside one of the stores a small boy no more than 11 years was standing with a box collecting fund for the Ukrainian armed forces. His father was on the front line and mom was home with his younger siblings. He was the eldest boy and proud to be supporting his family. We helped him with his mission. It took us rather longer than expected to find all the items and medications from the requested list so we were way behind the schedule. It was 3PM when we reached Nikolaev, which is 1 hour from Kherson, the soldiers told us we now had to put on protective gear.

I hadn’t appreciated the need given that Kherson is liberated and there are no Russian troops however the reality is that Russian artillery has a range of 20-25 miles and we were now well within range.

By 4pm it was already dark.The last hour that we drove to Kherson was full od apprehension, not knowing what I would see but also glad for the Ukrainians who after almost 9 months were finally free. The road was heavily damaged, littered with burned out cars and military vehicles. We had a few drop offs that we had to attend right away since recipients were waiting outside and we had no cell phone coverage so had no option to delay until morning.

Kherson is a city of almost 300k however without power we could not see it until we were within the city. I didn’t know how we would find people in need, but no sooner had we parked the car, than people just appeared out of the dark and quickly freed us from the contents of our trunks. Seeing people that night gave us a better understanding of their needs. #1 request was adult diapers followed by candles and food that doesn’t require cooking and sanitary wipes.

These people had been living without electricity, gas, heating and in many cases without windows due to explosion shock waves. Many of them didn’t leave because they have disabled relatives to care for and unfortunately couldn’t move them.

We were told that we were lucky not to have come during the day as they had been subject to massive airstrikes. At that moment I paused and took time to sink in what had happened here and the reality they were still dealing with. I got anxious as a cold wind was blowing in my face from the darkness. Instinct of self-preservation was screaming in my head that we had to leave to safety. My brother was debating whether we should stay for the night since we still had to drop off provisions for our boys on the front line. We decided to head back to Nikolaev beyond the range of artillery and then return to Kherson the next day.

In order not to waste time in the morning we replenished the cars while one of the soldiers secured us accommodation with the family of a comrade. They welcomed us with a full table off food and over dinner told us how they watched neighborhood missile strikes from their fifth floor vantage. Five of us slept in the living room of their one bedroom apartment.

Their water was not potable since had been contaminated with salt and so showering was not possible and we brushed our teeth with bottled water.


Ukrainian cossack


Missile crater


Road to/from Kherson


Free Kherson


Distributing aid in darkness


On the way to Kherson