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“My father does not plan to leave home if he hears the siren, and so many families”

The days of war in ukraine They pass very slowly for those who have relatives and friends thousands of kilometers away, immersed in a conflict that has already caused the flight of more than 660,000 Ukrainians. “We’ve been like this for seven days and in my head it’s like a month has already passed… You spend the day spinning your head, trying to figure out what to do to help family and friends who haven’t been able to flee… We are very worried“he confesses Tania Rubena Ukrainian woman who takes with her husband, Gregory Arapov, 20 years living in the Aragonese capitalwhere his two children, aged 28 and 19, also reside.

Like this family, thousands of Ukrainians in Aragon these days follow the news that reaches them from Ukraine through the media with “impotence” and “great concern” for their loved ones. They say that the recent Russian invasion that keeps half the world in suspense caught them completely off guard, despite the fact that in 2014 they already suffered the devastating consequences of the Russian annexation of Crimea. “Our people there have been used to the military presence for 8 years. But this has been a surprise, and a big one… Putin just wants to write history, to be the boss of the world. But this time Ukraine will fight to the end“, says convinced Gregory Arapov, who was a former Soviet soldier in Hungary in the 1980s.

“My mother, who lives alone in the Ukraine, was born in 1938 and still remembers World War II. When I call her, she always tells me that she began to live with war and that she will die with war”

Neither he nor his wife, born in Kropevnitsky (ancient Kirovohrad, a city in the center of Ukraine) find any explanation for what may be going through Putin’s head to have broken out this war between neighboring countries. Gregory, with a concerned expression, affirms that the Russian president “live anchored in the past, with the mentality of another century”, and he does not believe that he will stop the offensive through dialogue. “Putin does not understand words, only force. I can understand people who want power at the age of 30, when they have their whole lives ahead of them… But him? He just wants to write the story, which is the boss of the world. Silly stuff!”exclaims this Ukrainian, who lives with “impotence” for his family and friends in Ukraine the recent escalation of the conflict between the two countries.

His 83-year-old mother lives alone in the town of Kropevnitski.300 kilometers from Kyiv. He says that he calls her twice a day, and that “he spends the day crying and praying” for the Russian offensive to end. “On the one hand, she is calm, because she has us all outside. I live here in Zaragoza, her grandchildren too, and my younger brother is in Hamburg. But we every day we are more worried about her. When I call her she always tells me that she was born in 1938 and still remembers World War II. She says that she began to live with war and that she will die with war“, relates this Ukrainian with a sad gesture.

Gregory and Tania, at one point in the interview.

Gregory and Tania, at one point in the interview.
Francisco Jimenez

His wife, Tania Rubenalso describes the mixed feelings that this situation provokes in them, and the insecurity that their relatives and friends experience in Kyiv, Kharkiv (his mother’s hometown) and Kropevnitsky, where he has his sister and his parents. “Schools and nurseries have not been open for a week. My mother has gone to work today at the hospital because she has to. But people no longer go out with their children, they don’t walk, they don’t go shopping… They are all prepared just in case with backpacks, papers and food in case they have to leave. My father has already said that if he hears the siren he won’t leave home, and my mother says that she will stay with him. And like them many families…”, says Tania, who has offered on several occasions, after the conflict broke out, to go to the border with Poland or Romania to try to get her sister and her niece, barely two years old, out.

However, the complicated situation experienced by displaced people in Ukraine due to the Russian invasionwhich has caused rows of more than 10 kilometers on foot at the border with Poland and Romania (a thousand kilometers from the Ukrainian city of Kropevnitski) and gasoline shortage in several cities, he made his relatives desist from the idea of ​​leaving the country. “Yesterday I asked my sister if she could leave the city and she told me: ‘Tania, I am not going to leave anywhere, where I have to die I will die’… If they haven’t come out in the first two days, it’s more complicated because most cities have checkpoints and you never know where they’re going to bomb you or when planes or tanks are going to pass by.“, she affirms resigned when explaining that her sister’s situation is like a two-sided coin.

For her daughter and her daughter’s future, she would want to escape from there. But she has been taking care of my parents all her life, and I am also calmer that they are all together at the moment. From here I help them as much as I can… but right now I feel powerless. Most of the people have left for shelter. They believe that it is better for the girl to be between two walls, with the blanket on the floor and a ‘tablet’ with which they entertain her… Yesterday they had to put her to sleep in a chair in the corridor because as there could be an attack it was the safer to stay there. It’s a pretty sad image that comes to mind these days…”, confesses this Ukrainian, who just two months ago traveled with her husband to her hometown to meet the family at Christmas.

“The only good thing that this war has brought is that it has united all Ukrainians for peace, and they are not going to give up an inch of their land”

Looking at it in perspective, both agree that the “only” good thing this war has brought is the feeling of patriotism that has united the Ukrainian people to face the Russian invasion.

Tania, Gregory and their young son, born in Zaragoza, at the demonstration in support of the Ukrainian people last Saturday.

Tania, Gregory and their son Alex at the demonstration in support of the Ukrainian people last Saturday.
PB

“Ukrainians want to have peace and they are not going to give up one more centimeter of their land. Those of us who are here in Zaragoza feel very happy and grateful for our military, who are fighting and risking their lives for us and our families. In just six days, 60,000 Ukrainians who were working in Europe and they have left everything to enlist in the Ukrainian Army as volunteers,” says Tania proudly, who does not lose hope that the Russians will lay down their arms and withdraw from the country. Gregory, on the other hand, fears that the authoritarian character of the Russian president – whose mental stability is already questioned by intelligence experts – further aggravate the conflictand is suspicious of the effectiveness of Economic sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States in recent days. “After the war these measures are useless. They should have done it much sooner… Putin does not understand the words, only if there is strength and resistance will he understand. Now since we are fighting well, it seems that he wants to talk… He is not capable of enduring so much war and, furthermore, he does not have economic strength. The televisions said that there have been 3,000 Russian deaths in the first two days, and there is talk that in no war has Putin lost as many soldiers as here. It’s not going to be easy,” says Gregory.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian community in Zaragoza continues to organize itself to send humanitarian aid to their country, and the signs of solidarity and affection they receive from the Aragonese make the situation of uncertainty they are going through being away from their families a little more bearable. “People have called me from houses where I no longer work to offer me their help. They tell me: ‘Tania, if you need money or you have to get people out quickly, count on us.’ It’s no use, these messages are greatly appreciated. There are times when I’m embarrassed to ask my people ‘how are you’because really I just want them to answer me to know that they are still alive. This question (‘how are you’) now means ‘I love you very much’… because it’s the only thing we can do from here. ask and support“, concludes this Ukrainian.

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