They are Ukrainian refugee women and had to leave their country due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which marks, on 24 February, their first anniversary. They found, by force, a new life in places as diverse as Japan, the United States of America, Russia, England or Portugal.
Each of the stories shared with the European Press Agency (EPA) has three fundamental points in common: the reconstruction of a life away from home and the men who were forced to remain in the country, the nostalgia for Ukraine and an overwhelming hope in the victory of the invaded country.
In Tokyo, Ivanova Lyubov, 45, works at a restaurant that employs Ukrainian refugees. A radical change, taking into account the language and customs of both countries. Ivanova continues to find “being away from home very difficult,” she tells the EPA. Despite the sadness, she is grateful to have been welcomed in Japan and hopes that other countries will follow suit. “Because freedom is something very important.”
Tonya and Lyza, 33, are twins and were born in Crimea. After the Russian invasion, Lyza decided to leave Kiev, where she lived, and join her sister, who was already an immigrant in London. “My life has completely changed,” she tells the European Press Agency. “I liked my life, everything was perfect. I had to start from scratch.” She looks forward to the end of the war so that she can see her parents, who remain in Ukraine.
Alina Aleva, 21, was a university student in Kiev, where she lived with her mother. Due to the war, she was forced to abandon her studies and take a job in England. She hadn’t expected to become “independent” so soon. She hopes, one day, to return home and see her country rebuilt.
Also residing in England, Yelyzaveta Tataryna, 23, is now the owner of her own business, a vegan cafe that is also a safe place for women, in London. Almost all of her family, including her mother, continue to live in Ukraine. Due to the war, Yeluzaveta was unable to attend her grandmother’s funeral in Crimea. “It’s dangerous [estar lá]there are bombings every day”, he tells the news agency. “We go to sleep and wake up wondering if we will survive another day.”
In Boston, in the United States, Anastasia, 23 years old, currently works as an actress, although her training is in medicine. “A part of me looks forward to seeing the plan I had for my life in Ukraine materialize,” she tells the EPA. Her husband, who is still in the country, keeps her updated. “I’m afraid that everything has already reached the point where many terrible things have already become normal,” she laments.
Lidia, 75, lived in Mariupol before the Russian invasion. In March 2022 she left the country for Moscow, where part of her family already lived. The house where she lived for more than 50 years was destroyed by bombing in the first months of the conflict. She looks forward to “the day when families are reunited and life is calm and peaceful again.”
At the age of 41, Nadiia Ivanova left behind her family, her friends “and an incredible life”, she recalls in an interview with the news agency. She was a radio journalist. In Paris, she founded a project centered on Ukrainian cultural heritage. She still has hope, despite the destruction, that Ukraine will have a bright future when it joins the European Union.
In New York, Lesya Kyrpenko has not been able to find work since March 2022, due to issues related to her residence permit. She traveled with her two children but left behind her husband, who quit his job as a civil engineer to enlist in the Ukrainian army. “We had jobs, we traveled, we could study,” she recalls.