My Thoughts · poetry · Ukrainian War

Two Bags: That’s All She Took!

Immigration: two bags

Two bags of belongings are all a 68-year-old Ukrainian woman refugee took with her. I can’t imagine compressing all my earthly possessions into two bags. She is 68; so am I! I sobbed when I heard her interviewed. I’ve looked for this story on different new sources, but because of the explosion of Ukrainian immigrant stories, I couldn’t find it.

I have mused over this story for a week and ached for this woman. In her translation, she said, “It’s not about things. I’m 68 years old and this is all I have.”

You know me! So, this compelled me to write a poem which is all conjecture:

Two Bags—How Can I Choose?

Woman - Two Bags

For months, I’ve worried

A war

            A rumor of a war,

                        Then it happened.

The bombing

            In the distant east




What do I do?

I have lived a simple life

            For 68 years

                        Near Kovel, in a small Ukrainian village,

                                    Near the Polish border.

I have no family left here,

            Am childless.

My husband died two years ago.

My neighbors have taken care of me, a widow—

            Loving people,

                        Who bought our farm.

Yesterday, they came by with

            A heartfelt, life-changing offer.

                        Join us.

                        Let’s leave

                                    To Lublin, Poland.

As they spoke, I wept.

            My sister lives in Lublin.



                                                Shelter from what’s coming!

            My neighbors have relatives

                        There too!

A 169 kilometers car trip,

            2 hours and 40 minutes to escape.

The plan seems extreme—

            Leave by 2:00 AM

                        In the dark


                                    Pushing the car down the lane

                                                Out of town

                                                            Not to wake anyone.  

We wonder about the possibility of

Russian sympathizers in the village,

            Caution for sure!

But I’m Ukrainian!

            Lived here my whole life.

Deep in my heart, I know I have to go,

As I look around our lovely home,

            Full of memories


                        My husband

                                    And our life together.

Two bags

            That’s all I can take.

My neighbors have a car

            With limited space.

First, I packed bag number one.

 I grab the essentials

  • Toothbrush & paste
  • Deodorant
  • Hair brush
  • Soap

Next, my clothes

  • Underwear
  • Bras
  • Socks—five changes of each
  • Pants
  • Sweaters
  • Extra shoes

I cram extras into my clothes bag

  • Those minor items I have to have

Second, I packed my bag number two,

  • Jewelry
  • Cash
  • Financial papers
  • Passport
  • Bible
  • A small lap afghan I knitted

Third, in the space left in my second bag

My heart things

                        Our framed wedding picture

                        Mom’s secret pen

                                    From World War II

                                                When she was displaced like me.

As I look at her pen,

            I sob uncontrollably.

Why again?

            Why this horror?

I’m a simple woman

            Hurt no one

            Lived a simple Christian life

            Close to the land

            Helped my husband daily

            Good life

As I look around my home,

            One last time

I want to capture it all

            In my mind

                        Bring it all with me.

Will I be back—ever?

            Can this little house stand the bombing?

                        My heart breaks open at that thought.

To be prepared,

            I dress

                        In layers to protect myself

                                    Against the cold—

                                                Normally doesn’t get much above freezing

                                                            During the day,

                                                Then night time dives to down to 20 degrees.

            I must dress warm

                        Because I have no idea

                                    What’s ahead.

                        So layers,

                                    As many as I can handle.

Watching the clock fully dressed,

            Solemnly, I eat a hearty meal at midnight.

                        When will I eat again?

                                    I sneak some snacks

                                                In both bags

                                                            Just in case.

At 1:00 AM precisely, the soft knock on the door

            Tells me it is time.

As I grab my two bags,

            I shift the weight

                        To disperse the weight of my bags over my achy shoulders.

After one last glance,

            I shut the door and lock it,

                        Placing the key inside my purse

                                    As always.

With a set jaw, I walk towards the car

            Overflowing with my neighbor

                        And his family.

Walking with my back to my home, I choke back a sob.

            Such loving people.

To silently leave the village,

            It takes all of us



                                               Bearing down on

                                                            The car.

Safely out of town,

            My neighbor starts the car.

                        We jump in

                                    And head west

                                                Towards Lublin—


                                                            And the unknown.

And me,

            Here I am with two bags!

Two Bags—What Would I Choose?

As I write this, I looked around my house at 68 years old. How would I choose? I’ve pondered this blog post all week and thought about what I would take if I had the two bag limit. Obviously, Lin would be with me!

This is what I decided on:

  • Jesse
    • Food
    • Insulin
  • Bible
  • Laptop
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • Cables for technology
  • Mom’s genealogy notebook
  • Cash
  • Credit Cards
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Hair brush & comb
  • Clothes
    • Underwear
    • Bras
    • Socks
    • Extra pair of shoes
    • Changes of clothes
  • Priceless jewelry

How would I carry Jesse? I’m seeing my two bags have just grown.

As I scanned even just one room, what else? I’d sift through my belongings and despair like my Ukrainian counterpart over what I had to leave. What about Dad’s saddle and chaps? All of my beautiful square dance outfits?

How heart-wrenching! Millions of immigrants have left Ukraine, flooding Poland especially and all the other border countries. Displaced describes what has happened to them—forced to leave their homes!


I get it that this is happening thousands of miles away from me, but when I heard that 68-year-old woman interviewed, I sobbed! Two bags—how do you fit 68 years of life in two bags?

What would you take if you faced the situation of having to compress your worldly good to two bags?

Pray for Ukraine - two bags

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