March 23, 2023
Ukrainian ladies in Australia inform their tales a 12 months after the start of the conflict

They left husbands and fathers, grandparents and pals, good jobs and thrilling profession prospects. Lives they beloved. Few spoke a lot English once they arrived right here within the first half of 2022, having left Ukraine in an almighty rush following Russia’s invasion a 12 months in the past this month. A lot of the eight million who fled went elsewhere in Europe however greater than 4500 got here to Australia, largely as a result of they’d a member of the family right here already. Almost half of these settled in Sydney. They’re primarily ladies and youngsters; with restricted exceptions, martial legislation in Ukraine prohibits males aged between 18 and 60 from leaving.

How do you go about remaking your life in these circumstances? The place do you even begin? Serving to lots of them make the transition are two fellow Ukrainians, Natalia Borodina and Marta Artemenko, who handle the Ukrainian Serving to Hand Mission, a enterprise between the not-for-profit Sydney Neighborhood Basis and the Ukrainian Council of NSW.

Marta Artemenko (left) and Natalia Borodina help Ukrainian refugees rebuild their lives in Australia.

Marta Artemenko (left) and Natalia Borodina assist Ukrainian refugees rebuild their lives in Australia.Credit score:Tim Bauer

Based mostly till not too long ago on the Ukrainian Youth Affiliation in western Sydney’s Lidcombe, which grew to become one thing of a drop-in centre for socialising on Saturdays, Borodina and Artemenko assist new arrivals discover lodging, work, faculties and childcare. They join them to Centrelink, assist them to entry medical and different recommendation, organize social actions and distribute donated garments and different items. With comparable backgrounds and escape tales to these they’re serving to, they’re readily available day and evening ought to anybody want them.

Good Weekend requested 4 ladies who left Ukraine final 12 months to inform us their tales; of life earlier than the conflict and since arriving in Australia. They did so with translation assist by Svitlana Yakovenko.

Anastasiia Danshyna, 21, from Vinnytsia

Anastasiia Danshyna: “I had panic attacks and couldn’t breathe – I would sit, fully clothed, in the shower, trying to calm down.”

Anastasiia Danshyna: “I had panic assaults and couldn’t breathe – I’d sit, absolutely clothed, within the bathe, attempting to relax.”Credit score:Tim Bauer

I used to be born in Donetsk in japanese Ukraine and spent my early childhood there. My dad and mom divorced after I was six. I’m in 12 months 5 of a six-year medical diploma on the college of Vinnytsia in west-central Ukraine.

In 2014, after I was 13, the Russians invaded Donetsk. That was a horrible shock, as I grew up talking Russian and all the time noticed it as a sister nation. In the future, after I was within the college yard with my pals, a automobile pulled up and masked males carrying weapons obtained out. They stated, “For those who don’t get out of right here in two minutes we’ll begin capturing.” I bear in mind working away, terrified as they began capturing at us.

Two weeks later, the Russians began bombing. My grandmother put me on the prepare to Kyiv, the place my dad, who was a software program engineer, and his new household had been dwelling. Dad met me on the station and instructed me the Russians had bombed the prepare station and airport in Donetsk so I used to be within the final group to get out. I began college and it was very powerful as they spoke solely Ukrainian, which I couldn’t communicate. The opposite youngsters referred to as me a separatist as a result of I used to be from Donetsk and spoke Russian. I hated that.


My mum was nonetheless dwelling in Donetsk, and after I telephoned her I might hear bomb blasts within the background. I used to be terrified for her. Later, she moved to Kyiv, the place she met an Australian man who she married. They moved to Australia in 2018; my stepfather is a software program engineer, my mum doesn’t work.

In 2018, I began learning drugs in Vinnytsia. When conflict broke out, I used to be dwelling in a flat with different college students. My girlfriend referred to as and stated, “The conflict has began.” I stated, “What conflict?” Ten minutes later, the Russians bombed a navy camp close by – I heard the blast and knew that I needed to go away. I solely had quarter-hour to pack. I left to stick with a uni buddy and his household simply outdoors Vinnytsia.

My stepfather purchased me an air ticket from Warsaw to Sydney, so I needed to get a bus to Poland. When my bus arrived in Lviv, near the Polish border, the bus shelter had simply been bombed. We might see all of the harm; it was very scary. Once we crossed the Polish border in the midst of the evening it was an enormous aid. Polish folks had been ready there, giving us meals and SIM playing cards and different provides. I’m so grateful to them.

A number of days later, I flew to Sydney, arriving on Could 2. My mum and stepdad met me on the airport. I realised then that my life in Ukraine was over.

It was very tough at first. I lived with my mum and stepdad in a one-bedroom unit in Miranda; I slept on the couch within the lounge room. For the primary month I simply cried. I couldn’t consider that I needed to restart my life a second time. I had panic assaults and couldn’t breathe – I’d sit, absolutely clothed, within the bathe, attempting to relax because the chilly water ran over me. I believed I used to be going to die.

Anastasiia Danshyna (pictured here in Ukraine) is continuing her medical degree online and wants to work as a doctor in Australia.

Anastasiia Danshyna (pictured right here in Ukraine) is constant her medical diploma on-line and needs to work as a physician in Australia.

Issues started to enhance in mid-June. My stepfather took me to a psychologist and on Saturdays I began visiting the Ukraine Youth Affiliation at Lidcombe, the place I met different Ukrainians my age.

We began to socialize: occurring picnics, visiting museums and the seaside. I’ve met some Australian folks by way of my native Catholic church. They’re very pleasant; we learn the Bible and speak about Australian tradition and share tea and biscuits.

We are actually in a two-bedroom unit so I’ve my very own room. I attend group psychological assist with STARTTS, a not-for-profit that helps torture and trauma survivors, for 3 hours each Sunday and that’s serving to me.

I’m ending my medical diploma on-line. Typically there’s a bomb alert and the category stops as a result of all of them need to take refuge in bomb shelters. My classmates carry iodine tablets and a small bag of non-public belongings always in case of a nuclear assault. In July, a buying centre in Vinnytsia was bombed and one among my pals misplaced her hand.

I don’t need to return to Ukraine. I would like everlasting residency in Australia. My life’s dream is to be a physician. I want to be an oncologist or an ear, nostril and throat specialist.

I’m comfortable as a result of I’m alive and all of my limbs are intact. I’m filled with power to go on.

Anna Viktorova, 27, from Dnipro

Anna Viktorova: “I can’t understand a lot of Australians as they speak so fast and don’t pronounce words distinctly.”

Anna Viktorova: “I can’t perceive a number of Australians as they communicate so quick and don’t pronounce phrases distinctly.”Credit score:Tim Bauer

I’m from Dnipro in japanese Ukraine. I communicate Russian and Ukrainian, however primarily Russian with household and pals. My husband, Sergei, 32, is a software program engineer. We’ve been collectively for 10 years and married for seven, and we’ve got a two-year-old daughter, Milana. I’ve an economics diploma and I used to work within the audit part of a pharmaceutical agency. When conflict broke out, I’d been on maternity go away for 2 years and was planning to return to work in 2023.


Sergei and I made a decision that Milana and I ought to go away Ukraine. It was a tough choice as a result of Sergei and I’ve by no means been aside, however we did it for Milana’s sake. We determined to return to Australia as a result of Sergei’s sister had been dwelling right here for 10 years. She invited us to return and paid for our airfares.

I left by evacuation prepare from Dnipro to Lviv on March 2 with Milana, my now 69-year-old mom, my 59-year-old mother-in-law and my grandmother-in-law, who’s 82. It was very unhappy; in addition to Sergei, I left behind my stepbrother, stepsister and my father-in-law. In Lviv, all of us purchased bus tickets for Warsaw. Once we arrived on the Polish border it was chaotic, with folks all over the place, escaping by bus and prepare and plenty of on foot. We stayed in Poland for 3 weeks with a younger couple.

Anna Viktorova with her daughter, Milana, in Ukraine.

Anna Viktorova along with her daughter, Milana, in Ukraine.

We flew as a gaggle from Warsaw to Sydney, through Dubai, and arrived in Sydney on March 31. At first we stayed with pals of my sister-in-law, then she rented a home in Strathfield and all of us reside there now, together with her and her accomplice. It was tough at first. I missed Sergei and I’d name him on FaceTime each evening in order that Milana and he might see one another. My restricted English was an issue; I had taught myself somewhat, however not a lot, and I can’t perceive a number of Australians as they communicate so quick and don’t pronounce phrases distinctly.

I obtained a job as a cleaner 4 days per week, however that was a mistake, because it didn’t assist my English. I began doing on-line TAFE English courses two nights per week and my English began to enhance. I additionally did free on-line pc courses to enhance my IT expertise. I left the cleansing job and now work full-time for a Japanese firm, Yokogawa. I’m in finance assist; I do invoices and work with contracts. It was the primary job I utilized for and I used to be nervous, as I had two interviews, each in English. I’m fortunate that I work with a girl from Odessa who has been on the firm for 20 years. She helps clarify issues to me and interprets after I don’t perceive.

Milana has began childcare three days per week, close to the place we reside. She is studying sing in English. Her favourites are Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Completely satisfied Birthday and Rain, Rain, Go Away. It’s fantastic to see her so comfortable.

Anna Viktorova in Sydney with daughter Milana and husband Sergei, who arrived in October and hopes a new visa will enable him to apply for work.

Anna Viktorova in Sydney with daughter Milana and husband Sergei, who arrived in October and hopes a brand new visa will allow him to use for work.Credit score:Tim Bauer

We missed Sergei quite a bit however he arrived right here in October, which is fantastic. I’ve a humanitarian visa which permits me to remain for 3 years however they stopped issuing these on July 31, so he’s right here on a customer visa, which is just for three months and means he can’t work or entry Centrelink funds. He’s utilized for a safety visa – and is on a bridging visa within the meantime – in order that he can discover a job and we are able to transfer into our own residence.

I’m beginning to make pals by way of work and thru my sister-in-law. I like assembly Australians; everybody right here is so pleasant. I’ve additionally met different Ukrainians on Saturdays on the Ukrainian Youth Affiliation.

Once I communicate to my pals in Dnipro, they’re all very scared in regards to the conflict. We’re fortunate: I’ve a job, Milana is in childcare, Sergei is right here. I’m comfortable. I hope to remain in Australia for some time, although possibly not perpetually. I don’t know.

Natalia Lobova, 74, from Vinnytsia

Natalia Lobova: “I combine both Russia and Ukraine in my heart – now my heart is broken.”

Natalia Lobova: “I mix each Russia and Ukraine in my coronary heart – now my coronary heart is damaged.”Credit score:Tim Bauer

I’m a psychologist, a widow and a great-grandmother. I’ve two daughters, each in Sydney, and a son. One daughter got here right here along with her household 15 years in the past for work, the opposite got here simply earlier than me in March final 12 months.


My father is Ukrainian and my mom is Russian. I communicate each languages. I used to be born in Russia and lived there till I used to be 10, after we moved to Vinnytsia. I’ve lived there since then, besides after I was at college in St Petersburg learning psychology for 5 years. I usually travelled to Russia for work. Russia is my motherland. I like the Russian folks, the tradition and science and I’ve many pals, family and colleagues there. I mix each Russia and Ukraine in my coronary heart – now my coronary heart is damaged.

One stunning day, my daughter in Ukraine referred to as me and stated one phrase: “Struggle.” It was such a shock. I by no means anticipated it. I nonetheless can’t perceive it.

My daughter in Sydney insisted that I come right here instantly. It took me some time to make the choice. I had doubts about leaving my home with its personal orchard, my pals, my work, my belongings. Ultimately I made a decision to depart. It was a troublesome choice, however the appropriate one.

My daughter right here organized the whole lot: she purchased the air ticket from Budapest, then organized for various folks – some pals, some volunteers – to drive me there, which took 20 hours. I nonetheless can’t consider I lived by way of it. I’ve hypertension after I’m harassed and I used to be nervous I won’t make it. It was tough to depart.

Once I arrived right here, I had blended emotions. I’d by no means been to Australia earlier than. I used to be comfortable to see my daughter and her household, who I hadn’t seen for 3 years because of the pandemic. I used to be additionally relieved to really feel secure. However I felt and proceed to really feel deep disappointment about my nation, which is at conflict. Once I take into consideration that, I cry.

Natalia Lobova was in her 70s when she fled the war and has been warmed by the compassion she has felt in Australia.

Natalia Lobova was in her 70s when she fled the conflict and has been warmed by the compassion she has felt in Australia.

I preferred this magical nation immediately. I like the character and wildlife, and that the whole lot is so clear: the air, the water. The Australian folks I’ve met have been form, pleasant and all the time prepared to assist. Even getting right here at this time, an Australian lady on the bus cease who came upon I used to be Ukrainian helped me. Issues like that preserve occurring. From my first day, I’ve felt this compassion and it warms me.

I’m studying English at TAFE – I need to be taught to talk fluently so I might be accredited to work right here as a psychologist. I’d additionally love to do some volunteer work to thank Australia for its hospitality.

One problem is my well being. I’m entitled underneath my humanitarian visa to Medicare however that doesn’t cowl specialists, that are costly. One other problem is studying to adapt to dwelling with my daughter and her household after dwelling alone for a few years; many generations underneath one roof is tough generally. It’s additionally tough for mature folks like me, with life expertise, data and expertise, to really feel for the primary time that we’re not wanted as a result of our English is poor. You might want to have a powerful character. Many refugees my age right here will not be adapting properly and need to return to Ukraine.

I now really feel I’ve three motherlands: Ukraine, Russia and Australia. My coronary heart is in two elements: one half is comfortable to be right here, the opposite half is sad due to the conflict. My daughters have put their roots down right here however I don’t know if I’ll keep. We’re all ready for the conflict to finish to see what the longer term will carry.

Natalia Boychyn, 40, from Lviv

Natalia Boychyn: “The main thing is we are safe, we have a home and food for our children, and I have work.”

Natalia Boychyn: “The primary factor is we’re secure, we’ve got a house and meals for our youngsters, and I’ve work.”Credit score:Tim Bauer

I’m from Lviv and I’m married to Petro, who’s 39 and a priest. Now we have been married since 2006 and have two sons, Andriy, who’s 15, and Luka, 9. Luka is on the autism spectrum.

I learnt somewhat English in school. After college, I labored at a academics’ coaching school, then began learning to be a vet on-line. I saved up these research after Andriy was born in 2007 however stopped after I had Luka in 2013.

When Luka was one, he by chance spilt sizzling tea on himself. He needed to have surgical procedure and it was very traumatic. When he nonetheless wasn’t speaking at two, we thought it was due to that. When he was six and nonetheless not in a position to have a dialogue, we took him to the medical doctors and he was recognized as being on the spectrum. In Ukraine, Luka went to a traditional college and I needed to go along with him every day.

Natalia Boychyn with her sons Luka and Andriy in Ukraine.

Natalia Boychyn along with her sons Luka and Andriy in Ukraine.

After the conflict began, we stayed in Lviv for a month as a result of we thought it might be over rapidly. There have been common bomb alerts, which scared Luka, and we couldn’t take him to bomb shelters as he couldn’t address the damp, confined area. We needed to keep in our residence, which was very hectic. Our unit was close to a tank manufacturing facility – after we heard on the information that Russia was going to bomb it, we determined to depart. I did some analysis and we selected Australia as a result of it gave the impression to be a pioneer in working with kids on the spectrum. Petro knew some clergymen right here, however they weren’t shut pals. We mainly knew nobody.


Russia bombed the tank manufacturing facility on Saturday and we had been on a prepare to Poland on Tuesday. We packed rapidly, taking the naked minimal: two rucksacks, primarily youngsters’ garments. Luka’s behaviour is unpredictable, so we wanted to have the ability to transfer rapidly. We didn’t even take iPhones and iPads, though Luka loves expertise. We obtained customer visas – Petro was allowed to depart due to Luka’s situation – and flew to Sydney, arriving on April 7.

We stayed for 3 weeks with an Australian lady in Pendle Hill, whom a priest linked us with. Then SSI [Settlement Services International] discovered us an house in Bella Vista. In late June, we rented our personal house in Chatswood. We now all have humanitarian visas.

In September, I began working 4 days per week at McDonald’s, Beacon Hill. Earlier than that, I used to be doing TAFE English courses throughout the day, however now I do them on-line, two nights per week, and my English is regularly bettering. Petro has no English and he’s doing the TAFE courses, too. He isn’t working. Andriy is in school in St Ives, and Luka has simply been accepted into the Facet Vern Barnett College at Forestville, a particular college for youngsters on the spectrum. He’s been assessed for the NDIS. He’s exhibiting some enhancements: he speaks extra, and recognises his means residence and the native outlets.

Natalia Boychyn with husband Petro and their two sons.

Natalia Boychyn with husband Petro and their two sons.Credit score:Tim Bauer

As tough because it was to return to Australia, it might have been extra scary to stay in Ukraine. Our primary intention was to take our youngsters someplace secure. We nonetheless have pals in Lviv; many households stayed there as a result of the ladies didn’t need to go away their husbands behind. There may be nice concern there. Children can’t play outdoors, there isn’t a electrical energy. Regular life as we knew it doesn’t exist.


The very best factor about Australia for me is the convenience of life. Folks don’t fear about insignificant issues, and there are extra alternatives right here to reside the life you need: to review, be taught new expertise, attempt new jobs. The most important challenges are studying English and attending to know the system: well being, faculties, banks. I miss the seasons in Ukraine, particularly the snow throughout Christmas holidays.

However the principle factor is that we’re secure, we’ve got a house and meals for our youngsters, and I’ve work. We hope to remain in Australia, for Luka’s sake, due to what it gives kids like him. Nearly the whole lot our household does is for Luka.

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