Diary from Kyiv: My daughter, 11, is teaching me to stay positive

Day 8: Today, I feel empty inside, but my mother’s wisdom and my daughter’s positivity give me hope.

11-year-old Samira's drawing
Eleven-year-old Samira drew herself as a green creature seeking news that the war has ended [Courtesy of Zakhida Adylova]

Zakhida Adylova, 35, is a language teacher and producer for a political talk show who lives in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

She is a Crimean Tatar, a Muslim ethnic minority that was forcibly deported from their homeland, the Crimean Peninsula, to Uzbekistan in 1944 under orders from Joseph Stalin. In 1993, Zakhida returned from exile with her family to Crimea, Ukraine. Then in 2014, she and her daughter were forced to leave their home in Crimea for Kyiv after Russia annexed the peninsula. Zakhida’s mother joined them a year later. Today, the three are again facing a Russian invasion, sheltering in the bathroom and corridor of their apartment. Zakhida has kept a diary since the war began. This is her account from today.

Day 8: March 3, 2022 – ‘My daughter’s bright-coloured drawings give me hope’

8am: Alive. I feel pain in every inch of my body and pressure as though I have worked out for an entire day in the gym. I think it is the stress.

Last night, I did not react to the air-raid sirens. I did not hear them as I was sleeping. My mom watched over me and Samira, my 11-year-old daughter, as we slept.

My mother is brave and wise and the best role model I could ask for. In this challenging time, I remember her words. “That also will pass, Zakhida,” she tells me. “After a long night, there is always dawn.”

And, “When one door shuts, Allah opens another. Don’t forget that Allah sees what everyone does. He knows what your soul is crying about.”

But I have no tears left to cry. I feel empty inside.

9am: I had an interview with a Moldovan television station along with other Ukrainian citizens about what we are seeing and doing. We spoke about volunteering; the courage and unity of citizens who are tired but keep doing what they can to support each other and life today in the cities. In Kyiv today, life looks like it has stopped. There are few cars driving outside, and you can hear birds singing and then silence.

From my home, I have been volunteering by trying to connect people who, for example, are looking for ways to evacuate with people who can help them. I have tried to source drones and other equipment for the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) by contacting people overseas and I look for cafe owners in Kyiv who might be prepared to help make food for our Territorial Defence units, the civilian reservists.

2pm: Samira and I watch cartoons to distract ourselves.

3pm: Samira and I make some drawings. It hits me that my daughter is teaching me a lot these days. She stays positive and keeps smiling even though air-raid warnings break the silence in the corridor where we spend day and night. Twice, we have sheltered in the bathroom.

The colours in her pictures are bright. They give me hope.

In one picture, Samira rides a pencil holding an abacus. She is an international mental arithmetic champion and loves to compete, but cannot train right now. She has written [3CУ] in the corner, which stands for our armed forces. She wants to inspire our soldiers – to let them know that not only are they the best but beyond war – that Ukraine is also filled with bright minds. In another, she has drawn a green creature which is part of the logo of her mental arithmetic school. This creature represents hard work and the desire to do better. She is the creature in this picture, sitting in front of a television, seeking good news that Ukraine has won the war.

It is because of children like Samira that Ukraine will survive.

11-year-old Samira holds up 2 drawnings
Samira holds up two drawings that reference her love of mental arithmetic, something that she looks forward to being able to do again [Courtesy of Zakhida Adylova]
Source: Al Jazeera