Nikita Serdyuk
25 y.o., Kramatorsk, Donetsk region
Hi, please introduce yourself.

Nikita Serdyuk, 25, born in Kramatorsk, Donbass region. I work as a radiophysics engineer, and I skate. Now I’m near Kyiv, with my friends.

You moved to Kyiv because of recent events, and the rest of the time you were living in Kramatorsk, right?

Yes, I live in Kramatorsk. Kyiv is a very big city for me. I can come for a visit and take a walk, but not to live here. Big city, a lot of people – it's not quite for me. I need something calmer.

Tell us your story, how did you start skating?

I started skating in 2012. My friend had a skate from the mall, and he was learning to do an ollie. I watched and freaked out how it was possible. And now I remember it and I understand how horrible it was. In Kramatorsk, no skate stuff could be bought at all. My first board was with an aluminum deck.

Another problem was that I was the only skater in town. I learned absolutely all the tricks myself. There were video tutorials on Stuff (a big Ukrainian skateboard shop) of some tricks. Due to that, I learned the heelflip. I couldn't kickflip at all. For me, kickflip was something incomprehensible - how to turn back your foot on the board, etc. But I learned the heelflip easily.
It was a period of senior school?

Yes, I was 16 years old. I remember my friends and I went to Donetsk to skate, and I bought a new board, Cliché complete. Back then everything was in one district: the Golden Ring, next to the basement there was the Stuff shop and next to it there was the skate park Sokil with a concrete pool. I don't know where else there was a concrete pool in Ukraine at that time. My first trip to Donetsk ended with me falling, my leg was swollen, and I had to ride home for 2 hours. 

By the way, my first Go Skateboarding Day was in 2012 in Donetsk. That time I missed my train back and spent the night at the train station in Donetsk.
How did the war start for you?

For me, the war started in 2014. At first, everything was very strange, there were no shootings, nothing. You can even find videos, such as the capture of Kramatorsk police. The strangest video: 10 people ran, shot somewhere, and then everything is captured. Then, in the center of the city, all sorts of thugs hung out, and Chechens walked with whips. Then the shellings began in the city. Mostly in the suburbs. I remember going to the postal office during this period to pick up the board: the separatists are everywhere, someone is sending things somewhere and I am there to get my board.
Was it clear what was happening?

Nothing was clear at all. Now, it's easy to understand, but then nothing was clear. There were two televisions - Ukrainian and Russian. Somewhere the occupants tried to block the Ukrainian one. There was propaganda saying that the city was full of Nazis. Also, it seemed like they knew the exact time of when the shelling would take place. We always had sirens in the morning at a certain time and in the evening. We ride on the spot near the Billa store, then there is the siren, and we go home. Then they dug in the center of the city, right in the center, so that the Ukrainian Armed Forces could not answer them.
There was a moment when we left the city and went to the countryside. There were already empty streets in the city, there was no food, and the water supply was cut off. And literally, a few days later the news said that the Ukrainian flag hung over Slovyansk (the city near Kramatorsk). We waited a few more days and returned to the city. Burning trolleybuses had already been removed from the center. It all started with setting fire to buses and trolleybuses to block roads. Within a week, many people returned, and from that moment the city began to prosper.
Can you compare the feeling of 2014 and now? Was it something similar when it started on February 24?

Well, I read a few previous interviews of guys on the site. Many of them said they could not understand what the explosions were from, so they went to the Internet to search. I opened my eyes at 5 am and realized that the shit had started. Generally, we thought that if it would start, it would take place in our region. We could not imagine that it would be Kyiv, Kherson, Mykolayiv, etc. At 5 am I just opened my eyes, and, literally half an hour later we were at the ATM and withdrawing money. We understood quickly what and how it was. And on the same day, we left the town and went to our country house 40 km away from Izyum. And almost every day our dishes shake because of the explosions in Izyum. There is free space around and the sound has nothing to cling to, there are only fields around.
Were you thinking of going somewhere far away at once? After the experience of 2014. Not to a country house nearby, but somewhere in the direction of Lviv or Kyiv?

At first, no. I have friends who are in Armed Forces and fighting now, I know what skills our soldiers have. There were no such thoughts. We went to the countryside because we realized that there will be no work in the city now. The first two days I just tried to figure it out, I couldn't sleep. All these flashbacks from 2014 and the understanding that it is repeating now. All the little problems immediately fade into the background, it was not even close to the war. All these years there was only one thing in my mind - this bullshit should never happen again. But it did.

We stayed there for about a month and later decided to go further to Dnipro. When we came to the city, we were volunteering with friends, as everyone does now. Everyone is trying to help as much as he can.

A friend of mine once said to me: why do you repost all these posts on Instagram? For example, the post: "We are going from Kramatorsk to Dnipro, Rivne, Kropyvnytskyi and there is one free place". 
So, he says: why are you posting this? And I told him: dude, you can save someone's life with this post. Someone is sitting, flipping through the IG, stumbled upon a post, immediately called his grandfather, grandmother, friend – hey, some people are people going there, and they have a free place. Here's a phone number. If you can't go online, you can't go anywhere. The life of one Ukrainian is a thousand times more expensive than the life of all Russians together.

Also, we had 3 dogs, so it was a bit complicated to find housing. We found a house in Verkhnyodniprovsk and left the next day. It was a long way, with checkpoints everywhere, and traffic jams. We had a full tank, but in a traffic jam fuel consumption is different. And you always think about what is better: to turn off the engine or not. On the way, we were refused to rent the house we were going to. This story also knocked me out of my mind. At that moment, we were more than halfway there. There was a curfew in the evening, and we were homeless. But then some good people gave us an apartment near Kamyanske and let us go with the dogs. We settled down, lived there, and then our friends called and invited us to Kyiv.
What are you doing now, how is your day going?

I wake up and have a morning walk with the dogs. I can't tell you much, but my work is aimed at helping factories and enterprises. I service the devices as an engineer. Now we are helping people online for free. We consult to make the production in Ukraine work as much as possible.

Do you skate?

No, I did not take my board with me: it's heavy and takes extra space in the car. But I was already thinking of going to Kyiv, picking up a board, and riding with my mates. 
I would like to skate now. Sometimes I just play on the console to abstract somehow from it all.

Do you plan to return to Kramatorsk as soon as we win?

Of course. As soon as we win, I will first go to celebrate with friends in Kyiv and then return home to Kramatorsk. I will celebrate the victory with friends who are now in the Armed Forces. We have a lot of work to do, like the restoration of some enterprises. But first of all, yes, I will go home. I really want to go home.