For more than three months, Oleksandra Osadcha, who fled Ukraine at dawn on February 24 with her two children, drove from one country to another in search of a place that “feels like home”.
Russia invaded Ukraine that day and the 26-year-old social media and marketing manager immediately decided to leave, threw things in her car and headed for the Polish border.
But after two weeks in Poland and a month and a half in Portugal, the young woman finally resigned herself to the idea that she would feel like a stranger everywhere.
Now she must start a new life for the sake of her seven-year-old daughter and four-year-old son.
“The hardest thing psychologically is to settle down and stop running around looking for a place that feels like home, to start arranging a new life, to accept that you won’t be going back home anytime soon and accept that you are now nobody here,” Osadcha told AFP from Bologna, Italy.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR says nearly five million Ukrainians across Europe have been registered as refugees since the Russian invasion, in what it calls “one of the largest human displacement crises in the world.”
And the refugees are mostly women with young children, as Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 cannot leave the country because of military service.
These women have to “adapt to stressful conditions,” said psychologist Anna Prosvetova.
“The absence of the usual social circle plus the lack of trusted support, plus a feeling of loneliness and isolation from home, plus the realization that there is no one to rely on in this situation – it’s all mentally difficult,” she explained. .
“The woman takes full responsibility. She has to earn money, she has to organize her life, she has to organize her children’s leisure time on her own,” said Anna Kaliukh, a 34-year-old French teacher who fled to Poland with her. two children.
She also managed to persuade her parents to leave her native Severodonetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine that is now home to one of the fiercest battles of the war.
Kaliukh’s mother had first refused to leave her home, afraid of starting a new life abroad at 61 without knowing the language.
“The biggest challenge is finding a job,” Kaliukh said, adding that her mother finally made it in Krakow, as she has extensive experience as a hairdresser.
Osadcha said her two children are still with her constantly, which makes it even more difficult to look for a job.
“I was lucky, because I had some savings and could at least do some of my work remotely, but in general it is of course difficult,” she added.
Guilt and insecurity
Psychologist Daria Bondar says there is another problem for Ukrainian women abroad and that it lies in the contrast between the peaceful life they see around them and the horrors of war they know from the news from home.
These women “play down their feelings and experiences compared to the sadness of the whole country/other people” and they feel a certain sense of guilt for being safe in the distance, Bondar said.
“Ukraine is our home, our native land, and we never thought of leaving it,” Kaliukh said, adding that she watches the news every day and is filled with pride for the Ukrainian military and hatred of Russia.
Osadcha said she is stuck between feeling “I have to start a new life here” and “I am going home now”, but tries to separate her emotions from the objective risks.
“I completely lost my sense of security at home. I am sure that now in Ukraine I cannot send children to kindergarten or school because if they attack again I would not be close to them,” said the young woman.
“I don’t want them to get used to sirens and explosions,” she added.
“So when I talk about the circumstances of going home, I would probably want to be at least 90 percent sure that this will never happen again and that I can sleep peacefully with my kids at our home.”
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)