Putin came to destroy us, not save us – refugees from Odessa about pain and war


Putin came to destroy us, not save us, – refugees from Odessa about pain and war

Olga (left) lost her husband last year, Lyudmila (right) decided to go with a friend/Olga Konsevich, Channel 24About 10,000 people live in the Moldovan town of Anenii Noi. Since the beginning of the war, Ukrainians began to come here, who want to live closer to their home. 300 Ukrainians settled in families, and several families found shelter in the refugee center, which urgently began to equip after the first days of Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Olga (the blonde on the left) and Lyudmila they ask not to give their names – they say “they don't want popularity” and “there are people for whom it is much more difficult”, but from talking about Ukraine, the same tears come to their eyes. And even relative safety cannot quell the pain.

They entered through the Starokazache-Tudorovo checkpoint because Palanka was very busy and spent the night at the hotel. Then we arrived in Chisinau, turned to the refugee center in the premises of Moldexpo in order to understand what to do next.

We just took the advertisement that was handed out. And we called. It turned out that the center was equipped here. And we were the first who settled here after the opening, – recalls Lyudmila.

Putin came to destroy us, not save us, – refugees from Odessa about pain and war

It's cozy in the center, but there is only one shower room by 13 women, so men sometimes “give way” in their/Photo by DG ECHO

And refugees dream of a normal kitchen, a refrigerator. Now there is only one gas stove, ready-made food is brought by volunteers or cooked in a nearby administrative building, which usually serves the elderly and lonely residents of the town.

“Our life is the sea”

Why did you decide to stay in Moldova?

Olga: We don't need to go further. We are happy that we are close to our home. It's like we're almost there. As soon as everything is fine, we will go home immediately!

Lyudmila: There is a highway nearby, which makes it easy to get to Odessa. Once we are at home.

Is there a family left in Odessa?

Olga: Children live near Chisinau. They left early because they have small children. Now they live with their girlfriends in the same house. There are 22 of them with children. There are only 4 rooms, but they are happy that they are together. Children are friends, it's much easier. And our men will not leave their homeland, only cowards run away.

Putin came to destroy us, not save us, – refugees from Odessa about pain and war

Ukrainians endure trials in a friendly manner. Children are safe and getting used to new realities/Photo by Olga Konsevich, Channel 24

Lyudmila:My husband is with me. I have a daughter and a grandson in Odessa. The grandson is 26 years old, he is a doctor and has no right to leave, and he works.

What was the turning point that made you leave? You did not immediately leave Ukraine…

Olga: When you hear explosions, sirens. We are grown-ups, even too grown-ups. Health is no longer very good. Nerves, the coronavirus that has been scary in recent years – all this affects. My husband died a year ago from COVID-19, I was very stressed.

Lyudmila:The worst thing is that we live in a house by the sea and we constantly see ships whose guns are aimed at the city. And you don't know where that bomb will fall. We saw about 12 ships on the shore. They destroyed military units – one, two, three … When I saw Kharkov, Kherson – what's with the people? This is terrible.

Olga: They came, they stood, they banged, they left. Storm – they disappear. Then again. And you don't know when you'll be killed.

And what was the mood in the city when you left?

Lyudmila: They always bomb in the morning – 4, 5 in the morning . Everyone wakes up and runs wherever they can. And we have nowhere to run. And Odessa is a special city. We don't have any Nazis. Who invented them? I don't even know what they look like. We are over 70 years old, but we do not know what Putin invented.

Olga:If in Israel they immediately equip houses with a bomb shelter, then we have not had a large-scale war since 1945. People relaxed. But we lived a wonderful life. Everything was fine with us. It used to be like this: Saturday, Sunday – we all went to the sea, walked. Our life is the sea.

Putin came to destroy us, not save us, – refugees from Odessa about pain and war

Now the neighbors are getting used to the new place/Photo by DG ECHO

Lyudmila: And now everything is mined, it's dangerous even to approach the shore. It's very difficult for us. It's so awful. All Crimea came to the shore. But we did not expect that the Ukrainian army is so beautiful, such great guys. Protect us. Russian troops cannot land because they are being destroyed. Everyone sees ours.

Olga: Yes. My son-in-law, who is 57 years old, left to defend the city on the very first day. Sitting in the trenches.

Lyudmila:We hope that Russia will come to its senses.

Olga: She won't come to her senses, she won't come to her senses.

“Putin was offended”

Did your houses survive?

Lyudmila: So far so good. There are only pinpoint bombings.

Olga: We've calmed down a bit here. There is a very good attitude here. We feel attention, sympathy. The citizens of Moldova understand us. They survived the war themselves, they were in this fear, and therefore they understand us.

Lyudmila: The microclimate in the center is very good. We are respected. We don't feel unwanted.

Putin came to destroy us, not save us, – refugees from Odessa about pain and war

“We understand that we are creating problems for Moldova too. They lived their lives, and now they live ours,” says Olga.

What do you think about this war? Why is this possible in the 21st century?

Olga:As I understand it, Russia could not stand the fact that Ukraine is not friends with it. Putin is offended. We were in the USSR, it was destroyed. We felt good in the USSR, but we wanted to be independent. I will say this: our leadership should have understood even then: if you want to be independent, and there are large states nearby, you need to have a strong army. They robbed, set up Miami, we had bad presidents. I don't know if they like to hear it. If you have been given power, work for the people, the state. Such was the situation and Putin thought that we could be taken with bare hands. They wanted to make us poor.

Lyudmila: But he was wrong.

Olga: Yes, our guys said: “We won't give up Ukraine”. But there is also our fault that we once gave power to the ignorant.

Lyudmila: We understand that Putin came to destroy us, not save us. He just wants to destroy us as a nation. Although we have only nationalities in Odessa…

Olga: Although I spoke about the USSR, I live every moment of my life with joy. Now I also liked my life, the main thing – without war.

Lyudmila:Where do young people return to? How to live? These broken lives, destroyed houses. And after Bucha, it's scary to imagine what might happen next…

Many young people will return to rebuild Ukraine. They do not want to leave their native country, – Olga says after turning off the recorder. There are tears in her eyes, but it seems that these are not only tears of pain, but also tears of hope.

EU help

Since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, humanitarian needs in Ukraine have risen to unprecedented levels. The war in Ukraine has already forced more than 11 million people to leave their homes, and more than 4 million people have fled to neighboring countries such as Moldova, Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Most of those fleeing Ukraine are women and children.

On 28 February, the European Commission announced an additional 90 million euros in humanitarian aid programs to help civilians affected by the war in Ukraine. This includes, respectively, 85 million euros for Ukraine and 5 million euros for Moldova. On March 10, the EU allocated additional humanitarian funds to Moldova in the amount of 3 million euros. The most up-to-date data on emergency assistance and the work of the EU Civilian Protection Mechanism is available here.

We were able to talk to refugees thanks to the support of the program. Now there are many areas of support for Ukrainians in Moldova – from monetary to psychological. All useful links are collected here.

The article was prepared as part of the EU NEIGHBOURS east project. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author alone.

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