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The Ukrainian refugees who made it to Australia | Russia-Ukraine struggle Information

On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, 12-year-old Anastasiia was woken by two cruise missiles excessive of her home.

“They had been like fighter jets,” she remembered.

Anastasiia is among the 1000’s of Ukrainian refugees who’ve sought refuge in Australia since Russia invaded their nation on February 24.

Al Jazeera spoke to Anastasiia and two different Ukrainian refugees about their perilous journey to a rustic almost 15,000 kilometres (9,300 miles) away.

These are their tales.


When the struggle started, Anastasiia was dwelling in a small city near Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, with Kyrylo, her little brother, and their mom and father.

For the primary few days, they didn’t know what to do, she stated. Finally, they hid in the basement of their constructing throughout air assaults.

“It was fixed shelling and strikes so we couldn’t get anyplace and we solely had meals for just a few days within the fridge. On day six we ran out of meals,” Anastasiia instructed Al Jazeera, asking to not reveal her full title for her mother and father’ security.

“My grandmother made some meals and walked to us from fairly far, it was very harmful.”

Anastasiia and Kyrylo sit of their guardians’ home in Sydney. Kyrylo needed to fly alone after the airline refused to board his sister as a result of she had not been vaccinated towards COVID-19  [Zoe Osborne/Al Jazeera]

Simply over every week later, she left her city along with her mom, brother, grandparents and a automotive filled with animals. Most of the individuals who had fled had needed to depart their pets behind.

“We took two cats, one canine, two turtles, one lizard, two geese, two rats and one owl,” she stated.

Apart from that, that they had solely the garments they had been sporting.

Everybody was crammed into the automotive with out seatbelts, sitting on each other’s knees, the animals within the boot.

“We feared for our lives … as a result of across the street there have been completely different posts (checkpoints) and other people had been shot lifeless … You could possibly see a variety of automobiles with our bodies,” stated Anastasiia.

“We had been simply counting on luck,” she stated. “There have been a lot of automobiles following one another and the primary automotive received shot at however fortunately nobody was killed, so we modified our route,” she stated.

“Our automotive was coated with white stripes [with writing] that it was carrying kids.

“However after we had been driving,” she stated, “by the aspect of the street we noticed an analogous automotive with white stripes with a variety of blood.”

The journey was lengthy and traumatic, however Anastasiia made it to Poland. From there, her mom purchased her two kids tickets to Sydney, the place she had organized for 2 household mates to look after them till the household may very well be reunited.

Neither Kyrylo nor Anastasiia had COVID-19 vaccinations, which created extra challenges.

The airline refused to verify in Anastasiia who had proof of a damaging PCR check, which she had anticipated would permit her to fly to Australia.

The airline stated they didn’t recognise the exemption, and that any unvaccinated little one over the age of 12 needed to be accompanied by a vaccinated grownup – however Kyrylo and Anastasiia had been travelling alone.

As a result of he was youthful, Kyrylo was allowed to board.

“We didn’t have time to say goodbye,” Anastasiia stated.

Weeks later – after a interval in a refugee camp and with household mates – Anastasiia was lastly allowed to board a flight and is now along with her brother in Sydney.

Their mother and father have returned to Ukraine, combating for his or her nation, whereas she and her brother attempt to make sense of life in Australia.


On February 23 at 11pm, Antonina was on a Google Meet name along with her finest pal.

“We had been joking actually that nothing will occur,” stated the native of the jap metropolis of Kharkiv. “We had been additionally joking that we didn’t pack our nervousness backpacks … with all necessary paperwork, garments, meals and so forth.”

Early the next morning, she woke as much as a loud bang.

“My coronary heart was beating so robust,” she stated.

Antonina and her associate Ilya took the metro to her mom and sister and gave them their cat to take care of.

“They didn’t wish to depart. Furthermore, they continued to work. My sister was actually going underneath bombs simply to offer some merchandise from the store that they had been working in,” she stated.

Antonina outside a cafe in Sydney, where she has come to find work
Antonina, outdoors a restaurant in Sydney, says it took 30 hours to cross the border into Poland. She is from Kharkiv [Zoe Osborne/ Al Jazeera]

Within the days earlier than the invasion, Ilya’s firm had been attempting to arrange for the evacuation of their workers, however the struggle had come later than that they had anticipated and the main points weren’t finalised.

The buses Antonina and Ilya had hoped for weren’t obtainable.

“Out of the blue one of many colleagues of my associate, she stated that she has loads of tickets for a practice to the western half [of Ukraine] in an hour … it was only a coincidence, as a result of they’ve been planning … a team-building [event],” stated Antonina. “So we simply … tried to enter the practice underneath pretend names … they usually allowed us.”

They took the practice to Drahobrat, a small ski city within the southwest of the nation.

“We had been stopping on a regular basis, turning out the lights, ready,” she stated. “… We had been so harassed, oh my gosh, we didn’t know what to do.”

From there, the couple travelled to Lviv. It was there they needed to say goodbye.

“After that, I used to be by myself,” she stated. “… I needed to go to Poland to get a visa and purchase tickets to Australia from there.”

Below Ukrainian regulation all males aged between 18 and 60 – with just a few exceptions – face obligatory conscription, and Ilya needed to keep behind and combat.

“I used to be so scared and annoyed that I didn’t realise what was taking place. It felt like I’d come again in a number of days,” she stated.

Antonina crossed the border by bus from Lviv with two mates.

“It took us about 30 hours to cross the border. Our bus was the fortieth within the queue,” she stated. “Numerous volunteers [were] serving to with coordinating and meals. Folks made customized fireplaces to not die from the extreme chilly.

“It was snowing and [the] temperature was round -5C (23 levels Fahrenheit). Crowds (1000’s) of moms and youngsters in blankets and towels standing collectively. They stated that that they had already been standing there for seven hours earlier than we requested.”

People fleeing Ukraine enter Poland through the border crossing Korczowa, Poland
Greater than 5 million Ukrainians have now left the nation since Russia invaded on February 24 [File: Visar Kryeziu/AP Photo]

Antonina ultimately discovered her approach to Krakow and the flat of a pal of a pal.

Earlier than the struggle, Antonina had been planning to go to Switzerland to check for a grasp’s diploma, however monetary and visa points meant she might now not go. On a whim, she determined to use for a scholarship to Charles Darwin College in Darwin, Australia.

“They responded [to] me with a full record of directions. So I adopted the directions, they had been prepared to simply accept me,” she stated.

She flew from Poland to Dubai, to Brisbane and at last – three days after leaving Krakow – to Darwin.

The course was not fairly what she thought it might be so Antonina determined to maneuver to Sydney to work. She needs to settle and for her associate to hitch her.

“I’m [a] knowledge scientist with [a] huge knowledge background,” she stated. “At present I’m wanting [to continue] my profession as [a] knowledge scientist or knowledge analyst.”


It was when she heard that Moldova’s borders may shut that Olesia determined to go away Ukraine along with her five-year-old daughter and her 16-year-old stepson.

“There have been a lot of rumours saying that there have been too many Ukrainian refugees in Moldova already,” the 34-year-old stated, “and it was rumoured that Moldova may shut the border. That’s after I realised if I don’t [leave] now, then we can be trapped.”

The household is from Kyiv.

“It began on the twenty fourth of February at 5am. We wakened from two explosions and … then my husband instructed me the struggle had began.”

Olesia’s husband had already packed an emergency bag and later that day he left to hitch the entrance traces.

“I used to be scared and damage. However to be trustworthy, now it’s quite a bit worse as a result of again then I assumed it might all end in three to 5 days and I’d see him quickly,” she stated, “and now it’s [been] occurring for 59 days so I’m hurting extra now.”

“Nobody thought it might be actual, within the twenty first century, for struggle to interrupt out like that.”

Kyiv shelter
Folks have sought security in air raid shelters, underground basements and the metro [File: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters]

At first, she stated, everybody ran all the way down to the underground carpark when the sirens went off.

“Then, 5 days after the struggle began, I felt that I can’t do that any extra,” she stated. “It’s very distressing – the quantity of dangerous information that’s coming from the screens with all of the sirens going off at night time and any time through the day.”

She determined to take her little one and stepson and go to her mom’s home – her city appeared like it might be safer than the capital.

“The toughest half was … to really get into the automotive with my little one[ren] as a result of again then it was actually scary,” she stated. “In your condo or within the underground parking, you felt a bit safer however whenever you’re within the automotive you don’t know what’s going to occur.

“Once we had been driving, already some roads had been mined, so we needed to discover out which roads had been safer,” she stated, including that they requested mates within the territorial defence to assist them plot a safer route.

“Planes [were] circling round above us … so I actually didn’t know whether or not we had been going to make it or not.”

At first, she stated, she felt quite a bit safer, nevertheless it didn’t final. Olesia most well-liked to not share the title of the city.

“I began listening to … tales from my mates,” she stated, “… that’s after I began feeling unsafe … you don’t know whether or not you’ll get up – you don’t know whether or not it will occur to you as nicely.”

She determined to go away the nation. Her sister-in-law in Australia requested a pal in Romania to assist Olesia and her kids.

“For now, the plan is to convey again some type of normality to the youngsters’ lives … for each youngsters to go to highschool, to do some actions, to get some mates,” she stated. “For me, I wish to get a job in order that I can present for myself … and possibly as soon as the struggle is over, for everybody to go residence.

“We had an amazing life in Ukraine and we by no means deliberate to go away – we had been blissful there – and now all the pieces is type of gone … We simply don’t know whether or not we can return residence and what we can return to.

“Thousands and thousands of individuals misplaced their homes, their belongings, all the pieces that they had.”

Now secure in Sydney, Olesia says the world should not cease speaking about what is going on in Ukraine.

“Please unfold the phrase … We have to discuss it. We have to scream about it in every single place as a result of we’d like assist.”

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