Ukraine: Escaping Bucha | | UN News
Six weeks ago, life was easy for Yuliia, her husband Valerii and their young son Artemko.
They have just moved into a new apartment in a quiet, green area of Bucha. She has a job as a hairdresser and loves nothing more when a customer leaves her salon looking beautiful and confident.
Everything changed one bad morning in late February. War – violence, noise and horror – rumbled from the north. When her neighborhood is engulfed in flames, Yuliia decides to run away.
She and her family, including her mother Zinaida, have joined more than 7.1 million (as of April 1, 2022) internally displaced people (IDPs) across Europe’s largest country.
© Marian Prysiazhniuk
After four weeks on the road, they reached the western province of Zakarpattia, hundreds of kilometers from her ruined homeland.
When Yuliia saw the gruesome images and videos of the carnage and destruction in Bucha, she immediately burst into tears and was left speechless for a moment. “This level of violence is incomprehensible,” she finally said. “It’s not something you wish for in an enemy, but this is something that will never be forgiven and cannot be forgotten.”
From her neighbors, Yuliia learned that after her family left, their apartment was occupied, and their belongings looted. The factory where Yuliia’s mother worked was destroyed by a bomb.
Although Ukrainian authorities have regained control, people are still not allowed to return home due to the risk of landmines and explosives left over from the war.
© Marian Prysiazhniuk
‘This is our home now’
At Zakarpattia, they can finally rest. Along with hundreds of other IDPs, they found a temporary shelter in a school in the small town of Bushtyno. Volunteers from Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic have done their best to transform tasteless classrooms into cozy bedrooms. The gymnasium has become a centralized warehouse for all the necessities of daily life.
“So here we are. This is our home now. We have everything we need and the kind people are helping us in any way they can,” Yuliia said. We’re sleeping on the mattress on the floor now, the rockets don’t fly over our heads and my baby is safe. This is the only thing that matters now.”
She hopes that her son won’t have any memories of those dreaded weeks and scary flights. “We don’t have a lot of personal belongings but what really breaks my heart is that we can’t get any toys for Artemko. He loves cars and at home he has a lot of car toys, which he misses very much and always asks when he can come back home to play them again.
I wanted him to be just a kid, playing games and spending time with other kids. If he can get some toys or a bike, he will be really happy. And it will also make me happy. ”
© IOM / Jana Wyzinska
This article first appeared on the IOM . website