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Displaced; I Just Bought My New Home; Two Months Later, I Had To Leave It Behind Forever

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Displaced; I Just Bought My New Home; Two Months Later, I Had To Leave It Behind Forever

Nadiia bought her new home in December. She and her son, Mark, would be happy there. Christmas was coming, and Nadiia filled her home with pictures, treasured possessions, and love.

Two months later, they were both forced to leave it behind as bombs dropped around them. In an instant, her home was gone.

"At 5 o’clock in the morning I heard explosions, but I couldn’t believe it was war," she said.

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On February 24, out of nowhere, Nadiia and her son became refugees. She quickly gathered up some essentials and left Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. But her first thought was disarmingly normal.

"I had to go to my car service at 9am," she said. So that's what she did. It was scheduled; part of her plan. The idea of actual war around your home was so baffling, it was comforting to stick to some sort of routine.

It wasn't until she got to the garage, when workers called her 'crazy' and asked if she had somehow missed the 'tanks on the street' that she understood she and her son had to leave the city.

"I had a lot of calls that morning; friends called me and we discussed what to do," she said. "I tried to be calm, but it was hard."

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Kharkiv (Alamy)
Kharkiv (Alamy)

Ordinary people with normal lives have been plunged into extraordinary circumstances by the conflict in Ukraine, forced to ask questions most of us would never want to face.

Your city is under attack, your home under threat. What do you do? Where do you go? What do you take?

The answers to these questions are too difficult to fathom for many, and even when they became her reality, Nadiia still struggled to get her head around the situation.

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Arriving home, she collected what she thought she would need. For herself: comfortable clothes for driving, necessary documents, laptop and money. For her son: more clothes, a few toys and medications. Their lives were packed into two bags, and by 10.30am she and Mark were on the road, in streets surrounded by 'a lot of cars and a lot of militarists'.

At first, Nadiia thought the pair would be able to go back home soon, but when she took one last look at her flat, she 'had a feeling that day may never come'.

Nadiia's son (Supplied)
Nadiia's son (Supplied)

Nadiia had been 'excited' about having her own home and was thinking about repairs and improvements in those weeks before the war started. With the owner gone, the flat now holds onto everything she left behind. "Family photos, my son's first pictures, memorabilia, a lot of documents and diaries.

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"I was so scared," Nadiia recalled. As for what she told Mark, Nadiia simply said: "War is started. Russia attacks Ukraine."

Initially, she planned to travel to the west of the country – away from Russia, and her home. But as she followed the news of unfolding events along the way, she began to consider leaving Ukraine altogether, as she realised 'how things get worse fast'.

Nadiia told UNILAD she didn't know where to go - she 'just drove'. The mother and son stayed in AirBnBs along the way, and at one point found support in a 'kind family' who allowed them to rest when she popped two tyres on the roads in Romania.

Nadiia's status about finding help (Supplied)
Nadiia's status about finding help (Supplied)
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Nadiia's first plan was to go to Slovenia, because she has workmates in the country. As of March 10 Slovenia introduced 'temporary protection' for people displaced from Ukraine, which offers the right to accommodation, healthcare, work and education, though Nadiia told UNILAD she found the country didn't offer 'any status for living, a work permit or the ability to take [her] son to school'.

Instead, she decided to go to Portugal. "The country is fast-growing, has good support for startups and amazing support for refugees from Ukraine," she said. As a programmer, Nadiia said the one thing she wasn't nervous about is her job.

Last week, Nadiia submitted the documents that will allow her and her son to seek refuge in Portugal. At the time of writing, March 21, she is still waiting to receive all of the paperwork needed to let them live there, but she remains hopeful that she and her son will find safety in the country.

As for the future of her home, Nadiia said: "I hope really soon we win, and I’m totally sure that Ukraine will grow fast and will be great country - as it is, even now."

If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information 

Featured Image Credit: Supplied

Topics: Features, Ukraine, Russia, World News, Life

Emily Brown
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