Video Producers: Priyali Sur and Aparna Singh
Video Editor: Pawan Kumar
Ever since the war broke out in Ukraine, its neighbour Poland has seen almost three million refugees crossing the border to flee the conflict. The Azadi, in partnership with The Quint, travelled to Poland to tell the stories, the first-person narratives of the women and mother of Ukraine to know what they have been through.
These are not stories of fleeing the war. These are stories of resilience of the Ukrainian mothers, of fighting against all odds for what matters the most to them.
According to the United Nations, since 24 February 2022, a total of 3.7 million from Ukraine have crossed the Polish border. Children make up half of all refugees from the war in Ukraine. More than over one million children have arrived in Poland.
Kateryna Kovalova travelled with her two children from Avdiivka in Donestk, Ukraine. She is now living in a shelter in Krakow, Poland.
Kateryna said that the most difficult thing for her was to explain why they were leaving their home.
"How to explain why we are leaving? We left Ukraine, their granny, their dad. My children love their granny very much. We leave home, we leave school, we leave everything. Why? It is difficult to explain when another country decides that they should shoot and kill other people. It is impossible to explain. In the 21st century. It is unbelievable," Kateryna said.
She recalls that when the war started, she could not believe and thought that it would only last for a week.
"But when I heard about Mariupol, I knew this could happen to my city as well."Kateryna Kovalova
On 2 March, Russian forces advanced towards the port city of Mariupol. After a three-month siege, Russia declared victory over Mariupol. Over 20,000 civilians were feared dead in the siege, as per Associated Press.
"We knew we had to move. We decided to leave Ukraine. I think the safety of my children comes first. That’s why we are here in Poland," said Kateryna.
"The decision was very difficult, but we understood that the lives of our children depend on us. We used the evacuation trains. There were a lot of people on the train. We could not even lie down. All night we just sat side by side. All night we travelled with other children, other mothers, with old ladies, with suitcases, with animals. It took us about 24 hours."Kateryna Kovalova
Even as a refugee, Kateryna is the breadwinner of her family. Her husband, who is still in Ukraine, lost his job, when the plant he worked at, was destroyed in shelling. Kateryna continues to teach remotely.
"I am a school teacher. But now I don’t know what’s going to happen to my school. I go on teaching remotely. Unfortunately, few pupils have good internet. But those who can, they do their best because they understand how important it is," she added.
(Priyali Sur is a journalist, Refugee & Women’s rights advocate and founder of The Azadi Project, whose mission is to enhance refugee women and girls’ voice and agency by providing digital and multimedia storytelling and psychosocial support to women in refugee camps globally.)