Alina Kholodna, centre, with her colleagues at the hospital. / SUR

Refugee doctor starts new life thanks to support from host family

Alina Kholodna,who came to Estepona with her seven-year-old son to escape the war, is now looking to the future with faith and gratitude

ESTHER GÓMEZ / ANDREA JIMÉNEZ ESTEPONA.

Alina Kholodna, the Ukrainian doctor who arrived in Estepona on 8 March, fleeing from the war with her seven-year-old son Heorhii, now has her papers in order and a job which has put a smile back on her face but, above all, she feels hope and faith. Hope for the chance of a future in a town she came to less than a month ago, and faith that, beyond the dramatic situation in her own country there are still good, generous people in the world like Denise Liaño who, with her husband Leandro and son Emilio, opened the doors to their home, gave Alina and her son a warm welcome and have provided total support despite never having met her before.

Her "family in Spain", as Alina refers to them, have helped her with the paperwork, to find a job and a school for Heorhii. This would be straightforward for most people if they were just moving to a new area, but for Alina, especially as she doesn't speak Spanish, it was a real challenge.

Denise and Leandro explained where she had to go and how things work in what, for the moment, is going to be her new home and this young refugee feels "so very grateful," as she repeats over and over again, because she only has words of thanks for all their help.

Alina is now working at the HC Hospital in Marbella, not as a doctor because her qualification in Nuclear Medicine isn't recognised in Spain yet, but as an auxiliary in the radiology team. She says she is "very happy".

Ever since she arrived, "everyone has been so nice and they all want to help us," she says with a big smile, but there are tears in her eyes. The fear and anguish no longer shows on her face, but she can't hide her worry about those she has left behind.

"It was not an easy decision" to leave her country, she says, and she is relieved to have done so, but it has been painful to remember that first afternoon when she arrived exhausted in Estepona after days of travelling across Europe, fleeing from the war.

Now Heorhii is safe, has made new friends and at home, with Emilio, he enjoys playing like any boy of his age.

The thousands of kilometres Alina travelled to get to the Costa del Sol have not only got her away from the war but have also taken her far from the people she loves and from the life she had known until then. She had never imagined having to leave Ukraine "in the worst of situations," and it is something she can't get out of her mind.

Her husband is still in Kyiv. He has a construction business and knew nothing of war or weapons, she stresses, but like so many other Ukrainian men of an age to go to the front, he stayed to help his country. They speak every day and he tells her he is OK, but he is there alone and she cannot comfort him.

Confidence in the future

They don't know when they will see each other again. In fact, they don't know if they will see each other again. Alina is not detached from reality - nobody is - and she follows the news every day, sees the photos that people there post on social media and she can't help but feel afraid, although she is confident that Ukraine will win and she will be able to pick up her life there again.

Alina's father also remained in Ukraine. He is a "great doctor," she says, and it was from him that she inherited her vocation. Her mother is still there, too. She decided to stay in Kyiv with her husband and look after Alina's grandmother, a very elderly lady "who definitely would not have managed the difficult journey I made," she said. She misses "my family, my friends, my lovely home, my work..." The life, in fact, that the couple had been building for themselves and their son.

Only a few weeks have passed since she arrived at the home of people she didn't know, but now they have already become friends and they have helped her to find some peace.