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 had been like fighter jets,” she remembered.

Anastasiia is among the hundreds 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 struggle started, Anastasiia was residing 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. Finally, they hid within the basement of their constructing throughout air assaults.

“It was fixed shelling and strikes so we couldn’t get anyplace and we solely had meals for just a few days within the fridge. On day six we ran out of meals,” Anastasiia instructed Al Jazeera, asking to not reveal her full title for her mother and father’ 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 every week later, she left her city along with her mom, brother, grandparents and a automobile 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 had been carrying.

Everybody was crammed into the automobile 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 street there have been completely different posts (checkpoints) and folks had been shot useless … You might see quite a lot of vehicles with our bodies,” stated Anastasiia.

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

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

“However once we had been driving,” she stated, “by the aspect of the street we noticed an analogous automobile with white stripes with quite a lot 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 look after them till the household might be reunited.

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

The airline refused to verify 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 baby over the age of 12 needed to be accompanied by a vaccinated grownup – however Kyrylo and Anastasiia had 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 along with her brother in Sydney.

Their mother and father have returned to Ukraine, preventing 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 along with her greatest good friend.

“We had been joking actually that nothing will occur,” stated the native of the japanese metropolis of Kharkiv. “We had been additionally joking that we didn’t pack our anxiousness backpacks … with all necessary 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 accomplice Ilya took the metro to her mom and sister and gave them their cat to take care of.

“They didn’t wish to depart. Furthermore, they continued to work. My sister was actually going underneath bombs simply to offer some merchandise from the store that they had 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 workers, however the struggle had come later than they’d anticipated and the small print weren’t finalised.

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

“All of the sudden one of many colleagues of my accomplice, 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 pretend names … and so they allowed us.”

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

“We had been stopping on a regular basis, turning out the lights, ready,” she stated. “… We had 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.”

Beneath Ukrainian regulation all males aged between 18 and 60 – with just a few exceptions – face obligatory conscription, and Ilya needed to keep behind and struggle.

“I used to be so scared and pissed off that I didn’t realise what was taking place. It felt like I might 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 (hundreds) of moms and youngsters 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 strategy to Krakow and the flat of a good friend of a good friend.

Earlier than the struggle, Antonina had been planning to go to Switzerland to check 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 had been prepared to simply accept me,” she stated.

She flew from Poland to Dubai, to Brisbane and eventually – 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 needs to settle and for her accomplice to hitch her.

“I’m [a] information scientist with [a] massive information background,” she stated. “At the moment I’m wanting [to continue] my profession as [a] information scientist or information analyst.”


It was when she heard that Moldova’s borders may shut that Olesia determined to depart Ukraine along with her five-year-old daughter and her 16-year-old stepson.

“There have been a number 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 will probably be trapped.”

The household is from Kyiv.

“It began on the twenty fourth of February at 5am. We awakened from two explosions and … then my husband instructed me the struggle had began.”

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

“I used to be scared and damage. However to be sincere, now it’s so much worse as a result of again then I assumed it could all end in three to 5 days and I might 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 struggle 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 struggle 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 throughout the day.”

She determined to take her baby 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 really get into the automobile with my baby[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 if you’re within the automobile you don’t know what’s going to occur.

“After we had been driving, already some roads had been mined, so we needed to discover out which roads had 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 had been going to make it or not.”

At first, she stated, she felt so much safer, however it didn’t final. Olesia most popular to not share the title 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 this can occur to you as effectively.”

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

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

“We had an amazing life in Ukraine and we by no means deliberate to depart – we had been blissful there – and now every thing is form of gone … We simply don’t know whether or not we will return dwelling and what we will return to.

“Thousands and thousands of individuals misplaced their homes, their belongings, every thing 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 discuss it. We have to scream about it in all places as a result of we’d like assist.”

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