Ukrainian families torn apart by war

Alexander is five years old and his biggest fun since his family fled from Kiev five days ago is making video calls with his father. “Daddy! Daddy!” she yells when she sees his face appear on the mobile. “Today we have already had ten video calls,” says her mother patiently, but happy that the two can talk.

They have just arrived at a hotel in the small town of Jaroslaw, very close to the Polish border they crossed. Alexander “doesn’t understand why his father isn’t with him,” says his mother. “Fortunately, he doesn’t understand everything that’s going on, he’s still too young”. His father was 58 years old, so like all men between 18 and 60, he had to stay in the country.

They did not care that he only had two years left to avoid being drafted, that he had health problems, that he had two children

“They did not care that he only had two years left to not be drafted, that he had health problems, that he had two children”, laments his wife, who prefers to remain anonymous. Only those with three or more children are exempt from general mobilization. The war has separated thousands of families: the elderly, women and children have fled the country as best they could, sometimes accompanied to the border by their fathers, husbands and brothers, who have stayed to fight against Russian troops.

“My father is 78 and decided to stay to defend Ukraine”

“We fled because my son has celiac disease and we ran out of supplies for him,” says Danya, with the little one in her arms in a shopping center converted into a shelter in Korczowa, another point on the border. “We did not want to leave because my father and my husband have stayed there. I am very worried about them,” she says, trying to contain her tears.

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His father was 78 years old and although he had the opportunity to flee, he decided to remain in his city, Sambor, to protect it from attackers. “They decided to stay to defend our country. I am praying all the time, only God knows what can happen,” he says. Like most families who have arrived in Poland, he wants to return to his country, although he does not know when he will be able to.

Lena, Alexandr’s sister, is 18 years old and was going to start her Economics degree in Kiev next September. Perhaps, in the future, he wanted to study abroad, “but not now, not because he had to flee the war.” “Now I don’t know what I’ll do, I’m looking at universities in Germany or Austria, where I think we’ll go” he explains in perfect English.

I am 18 years old, I had never heard bombs, I did not think they could fall in my city

Early Thursday morning, when the invasion began, he heard the sound of bombs, but thought it was a storm. “I am 18 years old, I had never heard bombs, I did not think they could fall in my city”, it states. They immediately left their house, on the 24th floor of a building, to go to a small house they had on the outskirts, but soon they saw that it would not be safe and they took the same path to Western Europe as hundreds of thousands of families.

The refugee crisis after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine is already the most important of this century. More than a million people have left the country, according to the UN, and more than half have gone to Poland.

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“Our husbands took us to the border and returned to war”

At one of the entry points, in Przemysl, Julia is with her sister-in-law and their children, between the ages of 8 and 20. “My children won’t stop crying, They don’t understand why they had to leave their home and their father behind,” ensures. They had to drop out of school and university overnight and are looking to resume their studies in Poland as soon as possible. They both want to work.

Victoria comes with her son, her sister and her two daughters from Kherson, a city in the south of the country that has just fallen into Russian hands. “Our husbands took us to the border and came back to go to war”, it says. Despite everything, she looks hopefully into the future. “I think the negotiations will bear fruit and there will be peace soon.” She hasn’t even thought about where to go, since she is convinced that it will be a matter of days or weeks before she can return.

The The latest news allows for some optimism. Ukraine and Russia have agreed to open humanitarian corridors, in the first agreement between the two countries since the war began. The situation has also improved on the highways leaving the country. It took her only an hour to get from Lviv to the Polish border, when at the end of last week the wait could last for days.

Victoria (right), with her son, her sister and her two children ALVARO KNIGHT

“What have we done for Russia to invade us?”

Many will stay at the homes of friends or relatives. A friend of Julia’s husband “very generous”, according to her, has offered to host the seven. Another will shelter Anna, her mother, her daughter and her two dogs, who come from Kharkov, the second largest city in Ukraine and currently besieged by the Russian Army.

Anna (left), with her daughter, her mother and her two dogs ALVARO KNIGHT

Aleksandr and Lena’s family has been lucky. His mother’s company has paid for the hotel for the first day and the train to get to Munich, where they will stay with friends. The father, because of his age, probably won’t have to fight. “Hopefully they’ll make him cook and run the store and things like that,” she confides.

Lena, who has spent several summers in camps in various countries, has been offered to stay at their homes by friends from around the world. “Even a friend from Mexico told me that she could stay at her house, but I don’t want to go that far from the Ukraine,” she says. “I do not understand why we have had to leave. It is an absurd war. What have we done for Russia to invade us?” he asks.

I don’t understand why we had to leave. It is an absurd war. What have we done for Russia to invade us?

The conflict has radically changed how Ukrainians were, he says. “Before, there were people who were very anti-Putin. We didn’t understand why so much interest, most of us just wanted to live our lives. Now everything has changed”, follow. The invasion has united a country that was “very divided” and has now united around its troops.

“The Russian Army can be much more powerful, but the motivation that Ukraine has is incredible. Putin thought that he was going to invade us in two days, but we are resisting like we never imagined,” says his mother.

The people of Kiev, says Lena, have a reputation for being selfish, looking only for themselves. “However, when we had to flee, many families They put us up in their houses so we didn’t have to sleep in the car, they fed us, it was incredible.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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