Fleeing the Russian monster

First in a series of articles from refugees from Ukraine


by Olena Usovich

Olena Usovich

February 24, 2022. In the early hours of the morning, Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine – an independent, sovereign state. The horrifying events of that day radically altered my life and the lives of every Ukrainian. Dreams. Plans. Joy. Heart-to-heart conversations with friends. Dinner with family. Evening walks by the Black Sea are forever in the past. As much as we would like them to be, our lives will never be the same again. We will return to our cities and homes, but we will return as very different people.

I could not have imagined that in an instant I would have to re-evaluate everything that previously seemed extremely important. On February 24, my phone was bursting with messages and notifications on the news channels. War, war, has begun. Russia has attacked Ukraine and fired missiles at her cities.

Trembling, fear, apprehension, and a complete lack of understanding of what to do and what will happen next. Snakes used to be my fear. On February 24, the main fear was not living to the next morning. After calming down a little and making sure that this was not a dream, I began to write and call everyone I knew, even those I hadn’t communicated with for a long time. None of us was ready for war. We had neither stocks of food nor a prepared emergency bag.

On the street, I saw turmoil. It is impossible to put into words the panic and fear that took hold of people. Kilometre-long queues at gas stations and ATMs, crowded supermarkets. People were buying up everything that was on the shelves. I realized that in an instant, people had lost everything.

For some it was housing or clothes, for others it was a business and their livelihoods. For me, it was a career in journalism that took years to build. When I finally attained my goal and was ready to launch my own project, I lost everything. What future do I have? How do I live now? How can I help my country? These questions looped in my head over and over.

On February 24, at about 9 o’clock in the morning, I heard explosions, and ran to the window, but saw nothing. That night, I did not sleep, read the news, and contacted relatives and friends, making sure that they were fine. Nine more days of fear, anxiety, sleepless nights, and constant explosions forced me to leave home and move to a safe place. I do not want to leave. I love my country and my city very much, but I must leave. On March 3, I sent my older sister with her three children to Germany, and on March 4, I left Odessa with a friend and her child.

Fortunately, we had friends in Canada who offered to help and invited us to stay with them. We set out to get to the Canadian Embassy in Romania. Three hours on the road, 16 kilometres on foot, five hours waiting in line at the border, and we finally reached Moldova. We did not know where we would stay or how we would get to Romania. But the world is not without good and kind people. When two men approached us and offered to help, we were apprehensive, because human trafficking is rife. We asked them questions that would determine whether they were trustworthy. They passed the test and helped us find a safe place to spend the night and drove us to the train station the next day. Along our journey, we met many wonderful people who helped us reach Romania.

I had arrived in a safe place, but anxiety, pain and hatred increased more and more every day. I update my newsfeed daily and contact my friends. It is still very difficult for me to accept the idea that there is a war going on. This is a real tragedy for all people and for me personally. Now the whole world is watching as a small country with a big heart fights for the truth.

Ukraine is fighting not only for its own truth, independence, and freedom but also for the democratic principles of the whole world. After a long flight, changing three planes and a long wait, we finally reached Canada. Devastated, tired and heartbroken, we landed in Montreal on April 7. From that moment to this day, I have received incredible support from everyone I have met in Canada.

Ukrainian flags on many houses give me more and more confidence that Ukraine will win because good always triumphs over evil. Thanks to everyone who supports my country. Kemptville is an incredible town with a big heart and kind people, where everyone I meet greets me with a warm, “Hello! How are you?” as though we have been friends for years. Russia is a monster that destroys everything in its path. Russian soldiers kill, rape, and destroy Ukrainian cities. I appeal to everyone who reads this article, please help us stop the monster.

Olena Usovich was born in Odessa. After completing her studies at the Christian Humanitarian-Economic Open University, she moved to Kyiv. In Kyiv, she studied television and journalism. Olena has lived most of her life in Odessa, where she worked as a journalist. Currently, she resides in Kemptville, Ontario. 


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