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A hard decision to leave

21 July 2022, Impact of Our Work, Voices from the Field

Torn between wanting to stay and having to go

When the escalation of conflict in Ukraine began, it took Vira* a few days to decide whether to leave her home in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast with her children.

But the opportunity to leave came suddenly when her friends told her they were going to Romania. They told her, “Pack your things, we're going tomorrow." But as the crisis quickly escalated, only a few minutes later they returned and said, "Pack your things, we're going in two hours!"

Vira only had a chance to pack her bag with the most essential items.

Taking only the basic things

Vira remembers the day clearly. “I had a sort of panic attack. I was afraid of the border, and I didn't want to leave Ukraine.”

She wanted to take many things with her. “But you decide it's not needed and you take only the basic things, warm clothes for kids. You don't take anything special for yourself.”

Vira shares that she only packed for a few days, having no plans to stay away for too long. “We went to spend three days here … We didn't think it will take long, so we took only the basic things – documents, some food for our journey.”

A difficult goodbye

A nurse and a mother of two young children – three-year-old Marta* and six-month-old Alona* – Vira had a good life in Ukraine. With her husband working abroad as a humanitarian aid truck driver, they lived together with her parents.

When it came time to leave, the hardest part was saying goodbye to them. “They won't leave, even in a critical situation. My mother [who works as a paramedic] will go to help. [Leaving is] out of the question … I'm torn apart, I have to stay and I have to go.”

It was hard. When you have kids, it's a hard decision, as you want to stay. But you need to go. I tried to keep calm, to distract myself. We were packing fast.

Vira, 26-year-old mother of two

The same agonising choice is experienced by millions of Ukrainians as violence takes over their homeland. “I remember the emotions. It was hard to leave Ukraine. No one wanted to go,” Vira recalls.

Received with a warm welcome

The welcome they’ve received in Romania has helped ease the grief of leaving. “We’ve had so much support here. They’ve given so much more than we expected. Toys, clothes, food, everything. We had all that in Ukraine, but here, the scale of it all, the children looked like they were seeing all this for the first time in their lives!” 

Save the Children provided cash voucher assistance to Vira to meet basic needs like food and medicines. She received mental health support, basic non-food items, outreach services, shelter and daily hot meals.

We’ve had great support here. We don't know who helped us, or where it came from, but there was plenty of everything. Toys, clothes, food, everything.


A future only in Ukraine

Millions of children like Marta, Denys, Nikolina and Bohdan are fleeing from the violence in Ukraine – many into neighbouring countries such as Romania. 

But while some families have found safety for now in Romania, for many home will always be in Ukraine. Vira is clear about her plans for the future: “We want to wait here a bit and return. My own plans are 100% to return to Ukraine.”

I want to return as soon as I can, and to help. I see my future only in Ukraine, not abroad.


*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Photos: Lewis Khan/Save the Children.

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