Ukrainian refugee: Family’s future unknown but we hope for something better

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A refugee has said the future of her family’s life is “unknown” but they are hoping for “something better”.

Elena Sidorova, 30, is planning to start a new life in Germany or Austria with her husband Vladimir, 31, and their three children, Polina, nine, and two-and-a-half-year-old twins Eva and Zlata.

They have yet to decide where they want to end up.

The family, who are all using pseudonyms, fled their home in Odesa, a port city in southern Ukraine, on March 1 after the war broke out.

Disasters Emergency Committee charity in Romania
Ukrainian refugee Elena Sidorova brushes her daughter Zlata’s hair (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

After staying in Moldova for a few weeks they realised the war was not going to end soon, so decided to move further away and start a new life.

Since May 11, the family have been staying at the Egros Refugee Transit Centre in Iasi, a city in north-east Romania, 200 miles north of the capital, Bucharest.

The refugee centre is supported by a number of charities, including Save The Children, which has been giving them support and cash.

The charity is one of the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) member groups.

Some of the donations made towards DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal fund go directly towards the work that Save The Children is doing for the families at the centre.

Disasters Emergency Committee charity in Romania
The Egros refugee transit centre in Iasi, Romania, has capacity for 70 people (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Mrs Sidorova, whose parents and parents-in-law remain in Odesa, said she and her family are planning to leave Romania as soon as their car – which has broken down – can be fixed.

Speaking through a translator, she told the PA news agency: “After the first explosion, my husband and I decided to take the children away so they don’t have to hear it.

“We didn’t plan to leave Ukraine and go to other countries forever. It’s quite hard to move countries because we have no idea what’s going to happen.

“In front of us is just the unknown and hope for something better.”

The couple have decided to move with their daughters to Austria or Germany due to the financial support offered, as well as job opportunities.

Mr Sidorova was a welder who worked on boats, while Mrs Sidorova was a nursery school teacher.

Disasters Emergency Committee charity in Romania
Lara Fabian and her daughter Mascha fled their home in Odesa (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The women, who are also using pseudonyms, travelled with their cat, Bonya.

Ms Fabian, a nurse, said the pair are staying in the centre until the end of the month, when they plan to return to Odesa if it is safe to do so. If it is not, they have a flat they can stay in.

Speaking through a translator, she told PA: “We decided to leave when we saw a cruise missile blow up two oil base storages. If I hadn’t seen it fly in front of my eyes, maybe I would have stayed.

“We were really afraid. I didn’t care about where to go really, we were led only by fear – fear of my daughter losing her life and fear of me losing my life. Material things don’t really matter because you only have one life.”

She added: “We’re living a life we didn’t expect to live here. We’re thankful to other countries which support us. Of course we want to go home, but all the time Ukraine is bombarded constantly.”

Mascha, a sales manager for a hotel, said: “Even though we like Romania a lot, and we’re so grateful for the support, we really want to go home. We want to come (here) in the future as tourists, not as refugees.”

The centre has been open since February 28.

It is a privately-owned set of offices with security, with one floor being used to house the refugees.

Disasters Emergency Committee charity in Romania
Ukrainian refugees at the Egros refugee transit centre in Iasi, Romania (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

In the longer term, Save The Children is helping those who are staying in Romania indefinitely with education, healthcare and further assistance.

Andrei Craciun, regional manager of the response programme in Romania for Save The Children, told PA: “We are trying to do this (support) sustainably for a long time because we know we will be facing a longer period of people crossing the border from Ukraine.

“And, as time passes, I think people that will cross the border will have less and less financial means. So they will need more support.

“In the future, we want to make sure that all the children in Romania have access to education. We want them to not lose that connection. We also make sure there is zero risks of human trafficking or abuse.”

– To donate to the DEC appeal, visit:

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