The story of Ukraine: an indomitable desire to return to the country despite the war

This text comes from the “Ukraine Stories” project, launched by the English-speaking partner of “Time” Geneva Solutions, which works with Geneva International. It’s about supporting and publishing the work of dozens of Ukrainian and Russian journalists who have lost their jobs or their media but have no way of knowing.

A crowdfunding campaign covers the first two months of the project. If you would like to support him for the future, please contact us via email[at]genevasolutions.news.

More than 13 million Ukrainians fled their homes at the start of the war. Of the 5 million people who have left the country, 25% have already returned, according to a UN report.

Katrina and her husband, as well as Diana and her sister are among them. The first was spent fighting during a family stay in Kosovo and was swallowed up by the guilt felt during her ideal reception in Malta when Diana.

“We haven’t even stopped heating.”

In Ukraine, rumors of an impending Russian attack spread before February 24. Nevertheless, at the urging of their children, Katrina and her husband went on vacation.

Read more: The story of Ukraine: In Russia, insults are taught in schools

“We planned to leave in March, but finally, on February 12, we moved to Transcarpathia with some documents. [à l’ouest du pays], Katrina explains. We didn’t take any things or jewelry. We didn’t even turn off the heating in our house.

There, in a sanatorium where they have been participating for ten years, they have learned the beginnings of war. In Kiev, a bomb exploded less than 10 kilometers from their home, their first reaction being to go home. Pictures of the millions of cars blocked on their way out of the capital disappointed them. They decide to move to Kosovo, where their eldest daughter lives with her in-laws.

“I was ashamed not to be in Ukraine with everyone, Katrina thinks. One morning in Pristina, I went to town, sat on a bench and cried for a long time. My husband did the same thing and wandered the streets for hours.

In this city where they used to have a good time with their grandchildren, they now feel uncomfortable. So they flew to Malta to see their youngest daughter, but they were still not at peace. They then collected their cars in Kosovo and returned to the country.

“When we realized that Kiev had calmed down again, we packed our things and headed home,” Katrina explained. We took the same path in early February, but this time the feeling was completely different.

Once there, the couple was shocked. “On the highway, 150 kilometers from Kiev, almost nothing reminds me of the war. But when we arrived, I cried in the face of the destroyed house and the burnt car. It was scary, “said Katrina. Since his return, the couple has struggled to find words and has been restrained.

“I want to cry all the time”

Diana, 20, and her 15-year-old sister Kropyvnytsky, 300 km south of a town. On the morning of February 24, as they were driving to the capital’s airport in Austria where their mother was staying, the bus driver told them that the city had been bombed and that the Ukraine war was going on. They return home, and try to board a train for Lviv the next day.

“We arrived at 7 in the morning and waited until 6 in the evening before we could get into an evacuation wagon. Diana says torn bags and documents were everywhere. It was no longer a row but a mass of chaotic movements, shouts, arguments and fights.

Instead of the usual two hours, it takes 24 hours to get to the Polish border. After stopping in Krakow, the young women finally arrived in Vienna. “In Austria, I could live and work normally. I could even get help, but I was uncomfortable there, “admits Diana.

Despite this advantage, two months after his arrival, he is tired and wants to go home. “I am constantly crying and I was very worried about my friends who stayed in Ukraine,” said the young woman, who said she had met many people in the same situation.

Diana’s mother does not accept that she left Vienna’s quiet and safe environment. The two women get angry. While her younger sister was in Austria, Diana returned alone.

“One day, I bought a ticket to go home. I went back to Poland and from there I got on the bus to my town, Diana explains. It was a much quieter trip than the external one. It was a pleasure to wait at the checkpoint. ”

Since her return, she has enjoyed her home, her life, and her friends. “When I got home, a weight went up from my heart. I went to my apartment and cried happily.


Lyudmila Mackie is a Ukrainian journalist who has been living in Pristina since April 17. Translation and adaptation: Eileen LC

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