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Invaded: A family reunited

Invaded: A family reunited

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Halyna’s parents attempt to escape their hometown in eastern Ukraine.


“I have the biggest news for you. Okay, so, this morning, my sister Alana received a message from my dad – from our dad – and like the craziest message, the craziest message, that said something like: ‘We are going for it. Pray for us.’ Can you imagine receiving a message like that from your parents?”

Halyna

For the last month we have been talking to Halyna, a 28-year-old woman in Ukraine. Although, that’s not her real name.

She was in Kyiv when the invasion began… and left when the Russian assault on the city became unbearable.

*Sound of explosion in Kyiv*

Now she’s in the relative safety of Lviv in western Ukraine. 

But she’s been watching in horror as war descends on her family’s hometown.

*Sigh* So my parents have just called. There just has been an air strike on the town they’re in… And I’m very worried for them.

Halyna

A tiny place called Boromlya, near the border with Russia.

“Basically the whole historic centre of the town is destroyed.”

Halyna

In today’s episode, Halyna’s family attempt a daring escape.

“Oh my god, they are not using evacuation corridors, they are doing it by themselves.”

Halyna

***

“The Russian soldiers have begun to infiltrate deeper into the town and roam the streets.”

Halyna

Shortly after Boromlya was hit by a missile, the Russian army arrived. 

Halyna’s family were now living under occupation, without any power.

On 9 March, a 51-year-old woman called Svetlana was reportedly shot dead by Russian forces in the town. 

Soon after that, Halyna’s parents made an enormous decision. 

One which so many Ukrainians have been forced to make over the past few weeks. 

And one which has cost some their lives.

“Ukrainian troops were moving back into Irpin and this is why its people left. *Sound of shelling*. Journalists tried to help the casualties. A family – mother, father and two children – were killed by another shell.”

BBC News clip

Crammed into their Ford car, Halyna’s family left at dawn.

“Two in the front and three in the back because my sister, her child, and my cousin and my parents.”

Halyna

They decided to flee Boromlya without the protection of an evacuation corridor.

“They were trying to leave the city and they were stopped by the soldiers, the Russian soldiers.”

Halyna

Halyna’s dad was driving.

“His hands just couldn’t stop shaking. He was just gripping the wheel so tight. They heard, obviously, the planes over their heads.”

Halyna

They waited at the checkpoint. 

The Russian president Vladimir Putin claims Ukraine is part of Russia. That’s one of the ways he tries to justify his invasion. 

And when Halyna’s family were stopped by Russian troops on their way out of their hometown, it’s clear some of them believe him.

“The soldiers asked to see my dad’s passport. And I and many people in Ukraine have these plastic ID cards. But you know older people like my dad and my mom, they still have these little books with various pages.

“And in that book you can see this information, you can see the birthplace of the person. And they saw my dad’s birthplace, which is in Russia, because he’s in Russian – and they actually told him they had come here to liberate him.”

Halyna

They were eventually allowed to drive out of the region. And Halyna soon got a call.

“They made it. They are behind the lines. I am so, so glad. But at the same time, I mean, there is still my extended family, friends and loved ones that are not safe and who are under fire still… what’s important is that my parents, my niece, my sister, they’re safe. My dad called me just now and I heard his voice for the first time in days. And it was lovely.

Halyna

Back in Lviv, Halyna is keeping herself busy. 

She’s now helping out at the train station, which has become the main hub for millions of Ukrainians fleeing from further east or trying to leave the country.

“The good thing about doing stuff like volunteering is that you are busy. You don’t really have time to steep in your own stupidity and ponder about things and how bad everything is and how bad everything’s going to be or not going to be. You don’t have time to doomscroll. You don’t have time to freak out…”

Halyna

She’s even trying to enjoy some home comforts.

“I was just sitting waiting for my appointment at the hair salon because I really need to cut my hair up. And the sirens went off again… Now I’m sitting in the cellar. I hope the alarm won’t last long and I’ll be back in the chair.”

Halyna

And for now, she can relax knowing her family is safe.

“This is my mum.”

*Mum replies in Ukrainian*

“This is my dad.”

“Helloooo.”

*Dad continues to speaks in Ukrainian. He says: ‘Everything is going to be Ukraine [an idiom]. Everything is going to be fine. Long live Ukraine.’”

Halyna

After five days of travelling, Halyna’s parents made it to Lviv – in a car with her sister, niece and cousin. 

And Halyna was finally reunited with them.

“Oh, it was wonderful. It was wonderful. And my dad gave me a big hug and my mom cried. I bought her flowers. She likes that.”

Halyna

When we talked to her a week ago, Halyna said that she’d promised her mum she’d be with her for her 60th birthday next month. At the time it seemed like a distant hope.

“I don’t think I 100 per cent believed it myself. But I needed to tell it to someone so I could vicariously tell it to myself.”

Halyna

But now they’re all together, everything seems possible again.

Today’s story was written by Xavier Greenwood and produced by Imy Harper.

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