For some Ukrainian refugees, the war will be 2014 again

Lviv, Ukraine — Almost eight years ago, Slovyansk, a small city in western Ukraine, was first captured by pro-Russian separatists.

Svetlana Issakowa, 42, did not escape the city at the time, but sent her daughter safely. After days of combat and artillery, Ukrainian troops regained the city on July 5, 2014. The separatists fled to Donetsk.

The first explosion Isakova heard after Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of last month regained the memory and trauma of 2014 she spent a week in a bomb shelter.

This time, Isakova ran away with her daughter, son and three grandchildren. Two women and four children found the taxi driver willing to pick them up when the air raid siren was issued. They traveled for two days and arrived at Lviv station late March 23.

“It’s just to keep the children safe,” Isakowa told The Epoch Times the next day. “Last time, a children’s hospital was blown up where we lived.”

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Arina Kakonskaya (L) spent March 24, 2022 at Lviv Station in Lviv, Ukraine, with her three children. (Charlotte Cuthbertson / The Epoch Times)

Isakoba’s daughter, Arina Katonskaya, 21, was relatively safe when the battle took place in 2014, but when she heard rumors that Slovyansk was completely destroyed as a result of the battle, she I remember I was still crying.

Katonsukaya’s three children, Maximilian (5 years old), Maria (3 years old) and Dennis (6 months old), were set up on March 24 in the hall of Lviv Station for mothers with small children. Played with toys on. And on the night of arrival, they ate candy and the kids did everything they could when offered.

“They just kept eating. They were very hungry,” Isakowa said.

Katonskaya did not want to leave Slovyansk, but said the people there were living in panic and anxiety. She was giving up going to the bomb shelter when the air raid siren sounded. The shelter was too far away and usually reached capacity before preparing three children.

Isakova persuaded her daughter to leave Slovyansk, but Ukraine did not.

“It’s our house. How can we get off?” Katonsukaya said.

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Children are playing in the mother and baby room at Lviv Station in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 24, 2022. (Charlotte Cuthbertson / The Epoch Times)

In 2014, about 40% of Slovyansk’s inhabitants fled the city after being captured by pro-Russian separatists. After the invasion of Russia in 2022, a larger proportion of refugee crises occurred. According to a UN report, one in four Ukrainians (about 10 million) have been displaced since February 24, 2022.

Many refugees come to Lviv. According to the regional governor, the western region is currently home to 450,000 people who have fled from central and eastern Ukraine. Others head further west or cross the border.

Isakoba’s sister fled from Slovyansk to Kharkov in 2014. This time she fled from Kharkov to Germany.

“She is now crying on the phone and calling me. She can’t learn German and wants to go home,” said Isakova. “She left behind everything she worked for for eight years. She lost two homes in eight years.”

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Svetlana Issakowa’s son is playing in a room for mothers and small children at Lviv Station in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 24, 2022. (Charlotte Cuthbertson / The Epoch Times)

Isakova and Katonskaya don’t know where to go next. Lviv is full of refugees, so they are thinking of heading to another city. With the help of volunteers at the station, the two women were impressed and surprised.

“I was nervous, but this young man approached me and asked if there was anything he could do to help,” Isakova said. “Everyone is very kind here.”

Ivan Pentchoukov


Ivan has been reporting on various topics in The Epoch Times since 2011.