Stories of resistance

“It was difficult, but we held on,” — Roma activist Nelia Panchenko said about migration

Thursday, the 24th of February, Ukrainians met with the sounds of fighter jets over their own houses. Holding their breath, everyone hoped for the best, but the city was gradually covered by a large amount of “Hrads”, rockets flew over high-rise buildings, bridges, and railway stations. Women tried to flee with their children on evacuation flights, despite the difficult conditions of the move and fear for their own lives. Nelia Panchenko is a Ukrainian of Roma origin and an activist. The girl was in Ukraine during the first months of the full-scale war, but after a series of explosions in the city, she decided to leave and take her 8-year-old son. What she said about her evacuation experience and living in Germany – read more.

Blown up bridge

During the first months of the war, Nelia was in Cherkasy with her little son. Despite the difficulties, sirens and constant fear, the family wanted to stay at home. Periodic explosions made her think about going abroad. And only on the 27th of June, when the Cherkasy bridge suffered a massive blow from enemy equipment, the girl decided to leave home. On this day, traffic was restricted on the bridge for large vehicles. On the same day, Nelia packed her things and left for Poland. Three hard days were waiting for her ahead.

“Of course, it was scary for us to leave the country, we were going literally nowhere. But next to me was my child, about whom I thought first of all. The travel was difficult and long, but we handled ourselves well. The travel lasted 3 long days.”

Ukraine – Germany

Evacuation flights to Lviv, and from there to Poland, went almost every day. Nelia and her child left for the Polish town by evacuation bus. The girl says that it was scary because she didn’t understand where the rocket might fly in the next minute. The difficulty was also in the child’s needs, which are difficult to satisfy in the conditions of evacuation. The child was tired, exhausted, and of course this added to the troubles.

“We went to Poland with a local driver, who, by the way, did not meet passengers in their needs at all. My son was very tired, there was an urgent need to buy water and food, but I did not receive a normal response to my requests. When I asked to stop near the store because we need water, the driver replied that he didn’t care.”

Adaptation will take place

Nelia’s family is in the territory of Ukraine now, so she made her way independently. The girl admits that the travel was difficult, but she quickly managed to adapt to the conditions abroad. Basic knowledge of English helped during her travel, which allowed her to ask for help or ask something. Nelia’s first days with his son were in transit at the Polish railway station. She did not plan to stay there from the very beginning. The number of refugees in Poland is extremely large and it is difficult to adapt to living conditions there.

Staying in Poland was extremely difficult, because the living conditions with a child are not very comfortable, at that time there was already an severe shortage of places. When we arrived in Germany, we settled in a refugee camp, they gave us a room and provided us with everything we needed.

Today, the girl and her son already received a residence permit, the documents were processed quickly. After arriving at the camp, she found a temporary job in a laundry to provide for herself. The other day Nelia is waiting for a message from the local Job Center, which should offer a city of residence and places of permanent employment in Germany. Now the school year has already started, in which Nelia’s son will be involved in two countries at once: remotely in Ukraine and offline in Germany. Despite the quick adaptation, the family hopes for victory and returning home soon.

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