Don’t take things for granted, Ukrainian refugees share story of life on the run following Russian invasion

Two Ukrainian refugees share their long, exhausting journey, fleeing their hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine and arriving in Winnipeg almost two months after the war began. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

Imagine being in your hometown, living in peace and then one day, all of that is taken away. That continues to be a reality for millions of Ukrainians, including Serhiy and Olena Hrushytska.

“They were bombing civilians. Civilian place, civil homes. Many civilians died and ran away. We are victims of hate,” explained Olena Hrushytska, who fled Ukraine to Canada. “Everyone was very worried because we didn’t know what to do.”

When Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine started, Both Serhiy and Olena were living in Kharkiv with their family and friends. When they heard the bombs raining over their heads, they knew they had to leave.

“I started to cry a lot. I wasn’t scared, but I was abused in the sense of, what did they do to my land?”

Olena says they quickly packed as many suitcases as they could and filled them with belongings and clothes. They grabbed their dogs and cats and fled West.

“I took an album of my roots from 1868 with pictures in it. I also took an embroidery shirt of both my grandparents. I grabbed everything that was meaningful to me and stuff that I never would see again if I left it,” she explained.

A few days after the war began, they made a daring two-day bus drive to the Ukrainian-Romanian border, hearing constant shelling around them. The bus didn’t take them all the way to the border, so they were forced to walk for three hours, with all their luggage and limited food and water.

They lived in a Romanian refugee camp for a few days before travelling to Budapest and then took a train to Munich, Germany, arriving on March 17. They spent a month in Germany getting all their documents and biometrics in place for Canada’s Immigration process, and finally almost two months before the war began, they arrived in Toronto from Amsterdam on April 14 and settled in Winnipeg on April 16.

“Canada gave us more than we even expected. So much love. We are very grateful for this.”

Olena and Serhiy still have the majority of their family in Ukraine. Their hope one day is to go back and live in Kharkiv in peace, but both agree that won’t be possible in the near future.

For now, Winnipeg is their home and they are sending a message to all Canadians who continue to live in peace, don’t take things for granted.

“We had a good life. Ukrainians are kind people. We lived in peace. We lived with Russians, Jewish people, students from Africa, we loved everyone. There were no problems. The only problem was that our neighbour hates us.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today