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Inessa, who now lives in Nerja. A. M. S.
Fleeing from war and finding peace locally

Fleeing from war and finding peace locally

One year of the Ukraine conflict. Their lives drastically changed in March 2022 by moving to the Costa del Sol after Russian troops poured over the border

ALEKK M. SAANDERS

Friday, 24 February 2023, 13:33

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The war in Ukraine has forced millions to flee their homes, mostly women and children, as men were banned from leaving the country and urged to join the army.

We spoke to four of these displaced women who finally found a home on the Costa del Sol.

Torremolinos

Anya

Gennady, who has lived on the Costa del Sol for over a decade, took his relatives from Ukraine into his home in Torremolinos: his cousin Anya with two children and two aunts. It's not a problem for him and his English partner. He points out that they have a saying: 'There's no harm in being cramped', something like the English expression 'The more the merrier'.

«Soon after our arrival I was offered a flat by a private company. There is no washing machine there so the laundry is done at Gennady's house. Electricity is expensive, so we do what we can to save energy and money. This makes us even more creative and the sewing machine is in permanent use. I am waiting for work permits. An important thing is that my daughter continues her education as she was accepted into a private English school in Torremolinos. We can't help being grateful to all the people who help,» Anya says.

Malaga

Olga

Last March Malaga resident Oksana Hryhorash managed to bring her grandson Artem and his mother Olga from Kyiv. Eventually, in peaceful Malaga, the baby stopped crying every time he saw a man. He and his mother live in the house of a Spanish family, as Oksana is unable to take them in herself.

«Oksana takes care of all the costs. Once a week we receive food aid from the social services at the local town hall. It may not be much, but we are grateful for what we have. In a situation like this, the most important thing is to have clear skies and sunshine over our heads. I continue to work from home as I did in Ukraine during the pandemic. I do sales for an Italian furniture company in Kyiv. Of course, everything is sold in smaller quantities now, but at least I am able to make some money,» Olga tells SUR in English.

Casares

Anna

Anna is originally from Vinnytsia, in western Ukraine, and also once lived in Spain. Last May she, along with her son and grandmother, had to come to Spain again but this time as a refugee.

«On 7 March, we escaped to Poland, thinking that the war would be over soon and we would go back to Ukraine. My husband, father and younger brother are in the war. On 5 May, we arrived in Spain to find fresh shelter. Here we are staying with my parents-in-law who are Russians. They are also shocked by what their country started last winter. They help us a lot. At the moment I have no job, but I am a volunteer in a Spanish organisation, helping to organise humanitarian flights to Spain for refugees from Ukraine. I love Spain, I like the people, they are very kind,» Anna says.

Nerja

Inessa

Nerja is active in helping refugees from Ukraine thanks to the Red Cross and other local associations. On 18 March last year a bus brought Ukrainian women with children to this resort. Among them were Inessa and her daughter.

«Karolien (who is of Belgian origin) became my protector in Nerja. She helped me to find a place to live. Her mother takes care of my daughter because I have already started working here. Washing dishes is my new job after working for many years as a lawyer in my town close to Mariupol. I was supposed to go to Norway but, as things happened, I ended up on the Costa del Sol and I am happy here. My daughter too. Thanks to a psychologist she feels much better and more comfortable at her new Spanish school. I would like to say thanks to all people here, both Spanish and international residents. I could never have imagined that the level of solidarity could be so high. We feel very at home,» Inessa tells SUR in English.

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