• “You are living in a fairy tale,” a neighbor in the small German village where I fled from Ukraine in the spring told me. But beautiful scenery is not enough to calm someone living under constant stress.

    My current house has more items than my apartment in Kyiv. The whole village helped me, by collecting kitchen utensils, furniture, and clothes. People even found a coffee machine when they heard that I liked coffee. I had almost everything.

    But my integration was like a slow walk. I woke up around 4 a.m., checked if everything was okay with my friends and relatives in Kyiv, and then fell asleep until 9 a.m. when I started working. I had permanent internet access and didn’t need to hide in a damp basement. But the inner numbness of my life changed so quickly. The dissonance between the photos from Ukraine and the landscape outside my window kept me awake.

    Of course, this was the first stage ― a rejection of the new reality, combined with an uncertain future. Having overcome the fear of speaking German, I began to communicate with locals more. When I started to understand how these people live, it became easier to overcome stereotypes.

    Germany isn’t just a country with a strong social security system, and a place where nothing should ever distract people from planning their weekend entertainment, as some stereotypes suggest. It’s a very diverse place with its problems and divisions, rules and traditions.

    I have accepted the new rules of life and broken down many barriers: linguistic, emotional, bureaucratic. Openness, gratitude for people, and activity helped it all go smoothly. But…each of our stories is much more complicated than any “fairy tale” we see in the lives of others or that they see us in.