The Ukrainian refugees who made it to Australia | Russia-Ukraine war News

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

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

Anastasiia is likely one of 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 practically 15,000 kilometres (9,300 miles) away.

These are their tales.


When the battle 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. Ultimately, they hid in the basement of their constructing throughout air assaults.

“It was fixed shelling and strikes so we couldn’t get wherever and we solely had meals for a number of days within the fridge. On day six we ran out of meals,” Anastasiia advised Al Jazeera, asking to not reveal her full identify for her dad and mom’ security.

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

Anastasiia and Kyrylo sit in their guardians’ house in Sydney
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 per week later, she left her city together 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, they’d solely the garments they have been carrying.

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 highway there have been totally different posts (checkpoints) and other people have been shot useless … You may see lots of automobiles with our bodies,” stated Anastasiia.

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

“Our automotive was lined with white stripes [with writing] that it was carrying youngsters.

“However after we have been driving,” she stated, “by the facet of the highway we noticed an analogous automotive with white stripes with lots of blood.”

The journey was lengthy and traumatic, however Anastasiia made it to Poland. From there, her mom purchased her two youngsters tickets to Sydney, the place she had organized for 2 household buddies to take care of them till the household might be reunited.

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

The airline refused to examine in Anastasiia who had proof of a unfavourable 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 have 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 buddies – Anastasiia was lastly allowed to board a flight and is now together with her brother in Sydney.

Their dad and mom 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 together with her finest pal.

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

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

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

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

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

Antonina outside a cafe in Sydney, where she has come to find work
Antonina, exterior 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 organize for the evacuation of their employees, however the battle had come later than they’d anticipated and the small print weren’t finalised.

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

“All of the sudden one of many colleagues of my companion, 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 faux names … they usually allowed us.”

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

“We have been stopping on a regular basis, turning out the lights, ready,” she stated. “… We have been so confused, 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 alone,” she stated. “… I needed to go to Poland to get a visa and purchase tickets to Australia from there.”

Underneath Ukrainian legislation all males aged between 18 and 60 – with a number of exceptions – face obligatory conscription, and Ilya needed to keep behind and battle.

“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 buddies.

“It took us about 30 hours to cross the border. Our bus was the fortieth within the queue,” she stated. “A lot of 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 children in blankets and towels standing collectively. They stated that they’d 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 finally discovered her method to Krakow and the flat of a pal of a pal.

Earlier than the battle, Antonina had been planning to go to Switzerland to review for a grasp’s diploma, however monetary and visa points meant she may 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 listing of directions. So I adopted the directions, they have 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 could be so Antonina determined to maneuver to Sydney to work. She desires to settle and for her companion to hitch her.

“I’m [a] knowledge scientist with [a] massive 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 depart Ukraine together 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 advised me the battle had began.”

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

“I used to be scared and damage. However to be trustworthy, now it’s lots worse as a result of again then I believed it could 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 could be actual, within the twenty first century, for battle 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 battle began, I felt that I can’t do that any extra,” she stated. “It’s very distressing – the quantity of unhealthy information that’s coming from the screens with all of the sirens going off at evening and any time in the course of the day.”

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

“The toughest half was … to truly get into the automotive with my little one[ren] as a result of again then it was actually scary,” she stated. “In your condominium 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.

“After we have been driving, already some roads have been mined, so we needed to discover out which roads have been safer,” she stated, including that they requested buddies 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 have been going to make it or not.”

At first, she stated, she felt lots safer, but it surely didn’t final. Olesia most popular to not share the identify of the city.

“I began listening to … tales from my buddies,” 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 effectively.”

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

“For now, the plan is to convey again some form of normality to the youngsters’ lives … for each youngsters to go to highschool, to do some actions, to get some buddies,” she stated. “For me, I need to get a job in order that I can present for myself … and perhaps as soon as the battle is over, for everybody to go dwelling.

“We had an awesome life in Ukraine and we by no means deliberate to depart – we have been completely satisfied there – and now all the things is form of gone … We simply don’t know whether or not we can return dwelling and what we can return to.

“Tens of millions of individuals misplaced their homes, their belongings, all the things they’d.”

Now protected in Sydney, Olesia says the world should not cease speaking about what is occurring in Ukraine.

“Please unfold the phrase … We have to speak about it. We have to scream about it all over the place as a result of we’d like assist.”

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