'I just want to be home and safe again’ - Ukrainian mum on refugee life

Ukranian mother-of-one Vita has fled the fighting in Kyiv with her son and dog. Here she is pictured

Ukranian mother-of-one Vita has fled the fighting in Kyiv with her son and dog. Here she is pictured in her hotel room in Krakow which she has called home for the last week. picture: David Powles - Credit: Archant

EDP editor David Powles reports from Krakow, in Poland, where he met a young family desperately looking for refuge from the war in Ukraine.

(L-R) David Powles, Richard Knight, Adam Hale-Sutton have met Ukranian mother-of-one Vita who has fl

(L-R) David Powles, Richard Knight, Adam Hale-Sutton have met Ukranian mother-of-one Vita who has fled the fighting in Kyiv. Picture: David Powles - Credit: Archant

Ukrainian mother-of-one Vita is chain-smoking cigarettes outside the Krakow hotel which she has called home for the past week.

She says it’s not her normal behaviour, but she is stressed. Stressed and sad.

Worried about what is next for her, her 10-year-old boy Mykyta and their dog Asya and worried about the safety of her husband Stas, who remains at their home in Ukraine.

Ukranian mother-of-one Vita has fled the fighting in Kyiv with her son Mykyta leaving her husband at

Ukranian mother-of-one Vita has fled the fighting in Kyiv with her son Mykyta leaving her husband at home. Picture: David Powles - Credit: Archant

Ukranian mother-of-one Vita has fled the fighting in Kyiv with her son and dog Asya. picture: David

Ukranian mother-of-one Vita has fled the fighting in Kyiv with her son and dog Asya. picture: David Powles - Credit: Archant

She’s sad that it has come to this. Sad that she has had to leave behind both the person, city and life that she loves in Kyiv.

The 34-year-old’s story is, I’m sure, similar to so many who are currently seeking refuge whilst they wait for the war to end.

Having lived in the capital city for years with the spectre of a Russian invasion hanging over their heads, in the last few weeks things began to escalate.

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She said: “We’d hear the ‘pom, pom, pom’ of the Russians firing, sometimes up to five or six times a day and soon whole buildings nearby began to be destroyed.

“The worst time was at night. When it first started I could hear the firing and I just lay there in bed with my eyes closed. I just didn’t want to open them and for it to be real.

“I tried to put up with it for as long as possible, but then it came to the point that I just couldn’t take any more.”

It was then she took the decision to get out of Ukraine and try and cross the border into Poland. She, her boy and their cross-breed dog travelled on several buses and trains, before eventually reaching Medyka, home to a refugee camp housing thousands of people.

It was here where her paths crossed with Adam Hale-Sutton, the Little Melton man who is embarking on weekly trips to Poland to do what he can to help.

She said: “All I had was my small suitcase, my son, my dog and no plan other than to try and cross the border.

“We reached Medyka and it was then we met a group from Ireland who asked if I needed help and they introduced me to Adam.

“He got me out of Medyka into the hotel in Krakow where I’ve been since.”

Adam Hale-Sutton inside the hotel room of a family who have fled the fighting in Ukraine. Picture: D

Adam Hale-Sutton inside the hotel room of a family who have fled the fighting in Ukraine. Picture: David Powles - Credit: Archant

Adam Hale-Sutton and Richard Knight have arrived at the Ukranian border with their lorry load of aid

Adam Hale-Sutton and Richard Knight have arrived at the Ukranian border with their lorry load of aid. picture: David Powles - Credit: Archant

So what next for Vita? While it may sound fantastic being in a hotel in a glorious city such as this, the reality is anything but and she’s keen to seek a different solution as soon as possible.

She explained: “There were some fireworks outside the hotel the other night when I was in bed. I thought I was fine and then I had a panic attack. I was trying to be strong for my 10-year-old, but I just couldn’t stop crying. I’m still too close to what’s going on.

“But I need to be strong for my boy. He doesn’t know what is happening, he just thinks it is one big holiday.”

You suspect Mykyta knows more than he is letting on – and more than any 10-year-old should have to worry about.

Vita’s husband wanted to join the army but didn’t have the necessary training. He chose not to leave Kyiv and remains at home. They speak every day.

She said: “He decided to stay in the city to do what he could to help. It is very hard as he keeps telling me that everything is fine, but I keep seeing the updates there and it is hard not to be worried.”

Self-employed Vita would like her next stop to be either the United Kingdom or Ireland. She’s ready to work and would like to get her son into a school. She is worried, however, about the complexities of getting all three of them into the UK.

We’re doing what we can to try and smooth the process for her.

Reflecting on the war and the damage caused by Putin’s actions understandably bring a tear to her eye. It’s the first time during this 45 minute interview that I’ve seen anything other than steely determination and bravery from her.

She said: “Before all of this happened I led a straightforward life, taking Mykyta to school, working, meeting friends for coffee. I don’t think I realised how important those things were to me.

“Now I just want to be back home, in my house, living my life. My apartment is not the biggest but it is very difficult to be away from it, to not have your things and your photos around you.

“I can’t say that we can win this war. But Putin is destroying his own country now and it will fall apart, I just know it will.

“Ukrainians are strong and not like most people, we’ve been preparing for this for years.

“But I don’t even know what that {winning} looks like. I think it is just for us all to be at home and to be safe again.“

I ask her what it means to have the support of people like Adam, as well as to know that so many people out of Ukraine are thinking of them during this most horrid of times.

She said: “I don’t have much faith in what the politicians are doing, but what people like Adam, who volunteer, are doing is amazing. It means so much to know that we have the support of so many people across the world.”

For now Vita has agreed to join us for a few days to act as an interpreter in Medyka so that we can ensure the support we’re giving is as good as it can be. Adam has arranged for her son to have one of his children’s computer consoles so he has something to occupy his time.

She is unsure of what comes next, but is understandably desperate for this horrible war to end as soon as possible.

She added: “I think that your mental health is as important as your physical health and I’m just worried I can’t stay away from Ukraine, my country, for too much longer.”

  • The missions are currently being self-funded but a Go Fund Me page has been set up for those willing to assist at https://tinyurl.com/zy9cmt2c.