АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Roman Klochko
4 June 2022
To buy an apartment in sunny Odessa and finally have rest after the cold of Scandinavia – that was what Odesitte Yuliia Polishchuk and her eleven-year-old son dreamt about several years ago. But she did not have time to enjoy the warmth as 12 enemy ships entered the Black Sea, and the capture of Snake Island continued. The woman with her son and two dogs crossed six borders and finally found themselves in safety. Here Yuliia found a new mission for herself – to help Ukrainians who were also forced to leave their native country.
Before the war, I lived in Odesa with my son Hlib in the Arkadia district. I dreamt of buying an apartment there because I had worked on various projects between Scandinavian countries. I froze and finally wanted to enjoy the sun and warmth.
“Our windows overlooked the sea and I watched as 12 warships entered the waters, the capture of Snake Island began, a firefight”.
It was then that the now well-known Roman Hrybov’s phrase sounded: “Russian warship, go f*ck yourself”. We guessed that there would be a war because of the Russian consulate as well: it was also visible from the windows of our house. I saw them start burning all the documents, so the motorcade of Russian diplomats left the consulate. And that’s when they left it all, that night, February 24, Russians started bombing us.
I moved out from Odesa on the sixth day of the war because I was afraid that we would be shot. In the first days of the war, Odesa was bombed and it was unclear what would happen next. One of my acquaintances, a politician, called me from Stockholm and suggested: “I am giving a directive for a year with the right to extend it for three years. Pack your suitcase, because it won’t be over in a week.” I looked at my suitcase for six days, and he called me for six days and told me to come to Sweden quickly because it would be for long. And I decided to leave. I “put” my life in one suitcase, then together with my son, ours, and our neighbor’s dogs we left Ukraine.
Many of our neighbors also went abroad. They were great, we became friends and helped each other with cars, things, left the keys to the apartments. We were like one big family.
Odesa is located 80 km from Moldova, so we decided to go there. We passed checkpoints, military bases that were bombed. We walked through the Palanka checkpoint in 10 minutes. There were long queues, people waited for five days, but we had a guide who helped us through and put us in the line where people crossed the border on foot. While we waited, a woman with a baby stood in line with us; the baby was only a month or two old. The child cried, people began to push, a crowd was formed, because men accompanied their wives and children. The cart rocked from the crowd and almost overturned. At that moment, I couldn’t stand it and started asking loudly, ‘Where are the border guards, what’s going on here? Give the corridor, make room, let this child pass.’ And they did gave the corridor, the mother and child passed and I followed them.
In Moldova, I was met by friends, I came to Chisinau to a woman who worked as an ambassador. At first we were going to stay there, but we were told that Moldova may also be uneasy, because this country is the second front line.
And then we decided to go to Sweden. I had a sick dog with me, its veterinary passport remained in Ukraine, and I could not fly. So we crossed six borders.
When we were traveling by ferry from Poland to Sweden, we had Kharkiv residents with us. Saltivka, their district, was bombed and people were fleeing in what they had, black with ashes, with injuries.
I then understood why fate sent me here again. For three hours in a row, I helped people understand each other and translated, because I speak Swedish, English, Russian, and Ukrainian.
My son’s father is a Swede. When we were on the road, my friends called him and his family and asked if he wanted to see his son. He said “No”. “Will you help?” my friends asked. His response was negative as well.
Some time ago, I taught in Sweden, helped to write dissertations, and sometimes just translated documents. So I have a lot of contacts left from both Finland and Sweden. And they helped me find a family of Swedes who gave shelter to Ukrainians. We were given a house in the town of Trosa of 27 square meters, comfortable, with good conditions.
However, it was necessary to look for a job. Yes, I took on two jobs: teaching Swedish and coordinating Ukrainians coming to Sweden. I help with resettlement, documents, and receiving social and medical assistance. From the first days of my stay in Sweden, I gathered three groups of people and started teaching Swedish as a volunteer, helping as a translator, in any case.
The most difficult thing was to help those who came from the most affected regions: Mariupol, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and other cities. These were Ukrainians who lost their homes, some survived rape, some lost loved ones.
Many women speak neither English nor Swedish and have young children. Sweden is an expensive country, it is difficult to get housing here, find a job or draw up the documents. A woman came from Chernihiv with four children, her husband was killed but she was not given any social assistance. Such moments worry me a lot and I try to help as much as I can in situations like that.
My son is almost always at home alone, with only a dog. He is a very independent child. I work in the municipality of Nyköping, and we live in the town of Trosa. So I leave home at seven in the morning and come back at nine in the evening. Also, on Saturday I go to Stockholm to volunteer.
Hlib works individually with the class teacher of our school from Odesa. He goes to karate, swimming, the Swedes pick him up and take him to clubs. In Odessa, he went to the school of the Olympic reserve, played hockey, taekwondo. Hlib, like any child, quickly switches his attention from one thing to another. Sometimes he cries before going to bed when he looks at a photo of Odessa. In general, he misses his friends, who have also moved to different countries.
A woman with a child now lives in my apartment. They arrived from Mykolaiv, their house was destroyed by the enemy’s missile. We really want to come back and finally live in peace in our country, in our beloved city. I bought an apartment by the sea, I earned money for it, no one helped me. I am raising my son myself. At one point it seemed to me that everything was fine, I finally had a home. But the war destroyed everything and boomeranged me back to the cold countries. I really want to help everyone who is in dire straits, because I know well what it means to start all over again. But every day I get an amazing experience. The world is collapsing, the world is being restored. It takes away something forever and creates something new. We sincerely believe that victory will come as soon as possible, we will all rebuild and restore every corner of our country.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Roman Klochko