At home, Kateryna Saiko and Inna Iermolenko have a happy family, a cosy home and a job they love. In Luxembourg, they are two of many refugees from Ukraine who depend on the help of others, while at the same time they have to fear for everything they have built up back home.
"I don't cry much, because I have a daughter who has to see that everything will be all right again in the future." Only once have tears come to Kateryna Saiko's eyes since her arrival in Luxembourg, namely when she went to the hairdresser in Germany during her first weeks here and didn't have to pay anything. "At the beginning we didn't have much money and when the lady in the salon told me after the haircut that she understood my situation and would offer me the cut for free, it brought tears to my eyes", says the 41-year-old.
Together with her 16-year-old daughter Yelyzaveta, Kateryna, who is called Kate by her family and friends, fled Ukraine in early March. She not only left her home behind for an unknown period of time, but also her husband and mother, who both stayed behind to take care of their house and continue working. "We didn't want to flee because we had a home and a happy life, but our hometown Zaporizhzhya in the south of Ukraine has the largest nuclear power plant in Europe ‒ for comparison, Chernobyl had two reactors, Zaporizhzhya has six ‒ which was captured by Russian troops on 4 March, so it became too dangerous for us there", Kateryna explains.
A journey into the unknown
So the following morning she and her daughter set off for the train station ‒ where the journey would take them was still uncertain at that point. "We don't have any relatives at the border, so we didn't know where to go." At 6.00 a.m., the two women waited in sub-zero temperatures for three hours for a train to take them to safety. "There were mainly mothers with children at the track, the men formed a column for our protection, " Kateryna recalls. Instead of the maximum 45 people, around 150 boarded the carriages and people took seats on their suitcases to take off into the unknown.
The final destination was Poland, the mother says. She and her daughter waited there for eight hours without food or water until someone persuaded them to flee to Luxembourg. "Our current host family from Echternach picked us up by car in Poland and brought us here, where our lives must now continue." At the moment, the Ukrainian women do not want to and cannot go back to Zaporizhzhya, because only three hours away, the city of Mariupol has already been taken by Russian troops. "My daughter is therefore currently going to school in Echternach and is learning German and Luxembourgish in addition to English and French. Additionally to this, she is finishing her last year of Ukrainian school by homeschooling", Kateryna explains.
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