Ukrainian Refugee Flees to France Due to Bombing

Editor’s Note: This article is a continuation of 14-Year-Old Ukrainian Prepares to Evacuate Due to Potential Russian Invasion, which was published on Feb. 24.

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  • A protestor shows her support for Ukraine at an anti-war protest held in Washington DC, early March.

  • Many adults as well as children were present at the protest, using yellow and blue material to represent the Ukrainian flag.

  • A woman holds up a sign with “No War” written in Russian.

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On Thursday, Feb. 24, Russian soldiers invaded Sophia Havrysh’s city and bombed her apartment, forcing her to flee the country – leaving her friends and relatives behind. 

This was the eleventh day of war, and Ukraine was no longer safe.

“I’m still hearing a bomb around, and sirens,” Havrysh said, “and I think I will hear them and I will be scared of them for a long time.”

After hiding out in a Kyivan school while Russian soldiers surrounded her city, 14-year-old Havrysh and her mother got in a car with two strangers who drove them from their home in Kyiv, Ukraine to Warsaw, Poland – a journey that took three days. Then they flew to Bornel, France, where they are currently staying with family friends and worrying about their friends still in Ukraine.

“I can’t even say goodbye to my friends or something, I just [had to] leave,” Havrysh said. “Leave all my things, leave all my friends, people I knew that were important to me. A lot of my friends, a lot of my mom’s friends, a lot of my relatives, they’re all staying in Ukraine and I’m scared for them because every day it’s getting worse.”

According to Havrysh, there will be conflict between Ukraine and Russia for as long as Putin is alive. But even if he dies, he has many friends in the government who could become the next president – and nothing would change.

“Putin went crazy. He is shooting the schools, the kindergartens, the houses. People are just dying for nothing,” Havrysh said. “The kids, the women, the men. They didn’t do anything. They haven’t done anything to Putin, to Russia. [Putin] just killed them. If we want the whole world to stay safe – not only Ukraine – we need to arrest the Russian government. The whole Russian government. And start again.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked NATO to provide air defense over his country in order to prevent rockets from falling onto cities and killing soldiers and civilians alike. This includes protection for Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, which the Russian soldiers shelled and set on fire, briefly sparking panic over a potential nuclear disaster before the fire was put out.

“Why can’t NATO just close the sky? Why can’t NATO just help us?” Havrysh said. “You know what’s happened in Chernobyl, right? And there was only one energy [unit]. In Zaporizhzhia, it’s six energy [units]. Half of the world will be impacted. The whole continent will be in ash. And all they do is cheer us on. ‘You can do it!’ It’s kind of dangerous for the whole world, and [the politicians] just try to say supportive words.”

Havrysh has access to many news sources, such as President Zelenskyy’s Telegram channel, where he posts roughly three videos per day condemning Russia’s actions, highlighting the actions of Ukrainians who have stood up to the Russia soldiers, and urging Europe to “wake up” and help Ukraine face Russia’s attacks. Havrysh scrolls past the articles, rather than reading “all these terrifying things”.

“I’m getting enough [news] for the previous few days of reading [the news] every five minutes. It’s enough,” Havrysh said. “You know, people are dying, someone’s sons are dying, someone’s dad is dying. And it’s from both countries. There’s over 10,000 dead Russian guys here. Russia has become North Korea number two. All the companies closed their doors in Russia. [The Russians] can’t even fly away. It’s the 21st century right now, and we are still doing this war.”

Havrysh is taking extra courses to learn French as she and her mother are trying to adjust to living in France for “a long time.” They don’t plan to return to Ukraine until the war is over.

“I need to start a whole new life in another country that I don’t know, with languages that I don’t know, and I haven’t even been [there before],” Havrysh said. “I’m scared to become a refugee.”