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Ukrainian mother-of-two details long journey made from war-torn Popasna to safety in Southwell

The mother of the first Ukrainian family to resettle in the district has opened up on the trauma of fleeing her war-torn hometown with her two young children.

Alina Koreniuk, who has found safety in Southwell with her daughters Kristina, 12, and Olha, 8, through the government’s Ukraine sponsorship scheme, spoke to the Advertiser about her journey out of Ukraine, keeping in contact with her husband — who remains in the country — and blogging to help other refugees.

Alina Koreniuk and her daughters, Kristina and Olha.
Alina Koreniuk and her daughters, Kristina and Olha.

Speaking through host and freelance translator Simon Hollingsworth, Alina said it took 72 hours of travelling to reach England.

“We would have come here earlier but with our circumstance it took time,” said Alina, who lived in Popasna, which has been under constant threat from Russian forces.

“It sounds ridiculous but working in the police I couldn’t just leave, I had to work off my final notice of my employment despite the fact there was no police station. It had been bombed.

“And I didn’t want to just walk out.”

Simon Hollingsworth and Catherine Wilson with Alina Koreniuk and her daughters, Kristina and Olha.
Simon Hollingsworth and Catherine Wilson with Alina Koreniuk and her daughters, Kristina and Olha.

Alina played footage of the current state of her hometown from a video sent to her on WhatsApp, which showed the supermarket, offices and residential homes in ruins.

Another video, taken by Russians, has been uploaded to YouTube. You can see it below.

“First of all, in 2014, I lost my father because of the military action,” she said.

“He died from a shrapnel wound.

“We have lived this way for eight years, it has not been a sudden thing. I worked at the police station and we were often woken at 5.30am, and we were told where to go to make sure residents were safe in their homes or in bunkers under the ground. This would happen on a daily basis.”

Alina said her husband, Yurii, remained in Ukraine, in Kryvyi Rih, a town where there is relative safety, and remains on call ready to serve his country.

“Yurii has just written to me to say his good friend has died,” said Alina. “He worked at the fire station with him. He was shot dead.”

The timing of the message reminded her of the ever-changing situation.

After finishing her notice, the family fled to Kryvyi Rih, towards the centre of Ukraine, away from the war hotspots.

“We left while we were being bombed,” said Alina.

“We had our children in the car and we got halfway (to Kryvyi Rih) and stopped at a police station where we could stay overnight.

“Three families, all with children, were there. We wanted to stay there but the next morning we were told by officers that we needed to move on because it wasn’t safe.

“We wanted to go back to Popasna, it was our home, where we were born, where we are from.

“When we left we had to take what we could, which was practically nothing. We had our documents, and we were ready to go.

“The children are very used to travelling to the sound of gun fire.

“When we were leaving Olha said she didn’t like the noise (the gun shots) and asked me to close the window, but I couldn’t because I needed to know which direction the gun shots were coming from.

“We had to make sure we weren’t heading into that area.

“My mother and my grandmother initially refused to leave Popasna. They said it was their home and they were not leaving. They were living in an underground cellar with no windows.

“They were finally evacuated by a tractor, and they only left when the president came on TV and said they had to leave.”

Alina Koreniuk and her daughters, Kristina and Olha.
Alina Koreniuk and her daughters, Kristina and Olha.

Alina said her family have since settled in Southwell, where they feel safe ­— a huge positive for her children.

“They are fine now. We feel safe, which is the most important thing, because prior to this I was unsure if we would be safe again,” she said.

“We have a roof over our heads, we have water, power and food.

“It looks like we have sorted schooling for both of the children.”

Alina said she was appreciative of the reception from residents.

“As soon as people hear the word Ukraine, people just stop for you,” she said.

“It is quite something. I am very aware I am very fortunate to find a wonderful English family who have opened their door to us.”

To try to give information and help others, Alina has been sharing posts through Instagram.

You can follow Elena’s post by visiting her profile (@alinka0005alinka).

On her social media, she details the price of essentials items and offers help from her own experiences.

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