‘I am the Voice’ by Dulce Loureiro, Year 9, Thomas Clarkson Academy

“BANG!” That noise terrified me at first, but after a while I just got used to it. I must pretend that everything is good for my younger siblings because I’m supposed to be the “role model,” yet this war between Russia and Ukraine is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve never been more afraid in my life, but I’ve tried to keep strong for my family.

We were astonished when this all began, and my parents decided that we should leave immediately if we were to survive. My younger siblings were hysterical as they were afraid, confused at the sudden upheaval of their lives and all I was able to do was tell them that everything will be well in the end. I’ll never recover from seeing my siblings so upset. I just wanted to tell them everything will be fine, but I knew that was not the truth.

It was around five o’clock in the morning when our mother hurried us down the stairs with all our belongings. We jumped in the car, everyone crying and panicking because we had to leave our home, what if we couldn’t get away? We had no idea where we were headed, but because most of us spoke French, we were on our way to France. All of this was in the back of my mind. I felt guilty that we had the opportunity to leave, and I prayed that one day I might be able to return to my old house, that’s if it remains.

We were able to flee Ukraine. I’ve never felt so relieved, but also sad and terrified that we were pushed into such chaos and destruction. We arrived in France after around 4 hours. For the time being, this would be my new home. Time seemed to stand still and as you might expect, being a teenager and attempting to establish new friendships might be challenging. Speaking French helped, but my spirit yearned to be back home, with my friends, in my own environment. When I started school, we were given housing in a little town on the outskirts of Paris. We were dubbed the ‘refugee family.’

I wished so much that the name calling would stop. We have a home, a country and being displaced is hard enough without being labelled. One of my closest friends and her family did not manage to get out. They did not survive. After hearing about the ordeal and trauma that females had to endure by the soldiers, I often wonder if my friend had experienced it. I have a picture of us that reminds me of home. A constant reminder that war and violence should never is not a means to an end. What has happened to the love? What has happened to humanity?

Do we all need to flee before we are heard? My mission is to be the voice for those that have lost theirs. Ukraine will always flow through my veins.