RIYADH/JEDDAH: Ukrainians living in Saudi Arabia watch the news, worried for the safety of family and friends, and alarmed by events in their home country.
“Missiles, sirens all the time, explosions in this area and bomb shelters,” said Kateryna Tkachenko, 23, from Ukraine, who lives in Jeddah. “That’s all the news we’ve been getting since the start.”
The Russian-Ukrainian crisis has devastated and displaced many people, with explosions lighting up the sky and air raid sirens sounding across the country.
Those who spoke to Arab News shared their feelings of dread and anguish as they received frantic calls from loved ones back home, describing the situation as “devastating”.
Tkachenko said his friends and family, who decided to stay home, placed blankets and mattresses in the hallway and put tape on the windows so the glass wouldn’t break in the event of an explosion.
“My beloved is in the center of Kiev at the moment. He couldn’t go to the shelter because his collarbone is broken,” Tkachenko told Arab News. now it’s the safest place he can be.”
Hoping for the COVID-19 pandemic to end soon, Tkachenko said she and her friends started discussing their future, choosing career paths and it all stopped.
Olena Solodovnyk, 28, works in a beauty salon in Jeddah. She said she and her family members could not believe a war was going on and felt completely helpless.
“All my family is in different cities and I am very worried about their fate. It is not easy to understand what is happening in this situation, there is nothing you can do,” Solodovnyk told Arab News. “I thank God that my parents are now in Pavlograd and are safe, but we pray and worry for my sister with children who live near Kyiv.”
Pavlograd is a city and municipality in central-eastern Ukraine, located in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. It is the administrative center of Pavlograd Raion with a population of around 100,000.
“Some of my relatives might leave the country or go west to the Carpathians (a mountain range across central and eastern Europe),” Solodovnyk said. “The worst is my friends, who are now in Kyiv hiding in bomb shelters and spending the night in the metro.
“Every day of my life starts with me calling and writing everyone, making sure they’re alive. What is happening now is terrible. It changes your attitude towards life and values.
“It’s so scary because you realize that every time you say ‘I love you’ or ‘Goodnight’ or ‘Please take care’ or ‘Stay safe’, that could be the last time or the last words you say to that person,” Tkachenko said.
Irina Bloxham, who has lived in the Kingdom for 22 years, follows the news closely from Riyadh. She told Arab News: “We are very concerned about what will happen to our families – to Ukraine in general. And on the other hand, it’s: ‘What can we do for our country?’ »
Bloxham, who works as recreation director of Braira, a resort town in the Riyadh Valley, added: “Apart from being worried about my family back home, I’m just worried that they are absolutely destroying the country and the nation, but we are strong and Ukraine will soon be free.
Bloxham, from Kharkiv near the Russian border, said being away from home made things very difficult at this critical time and while they were scared, they were very proud of the way the Ukrainian people, army men, women and children were handling the threat.
“We are not defeated, we are fighters and we are brave,” she said.
Jeddah resident Alyona Malinovskaya told Arab News that no one expected war to break out. She said she saw the news online while she was at home.
Although she left the country three years ago, she still had family and friends living in Ukraine. Since the crisis between Russia and Ukraine escalated, she had been communicating with her family every three hours every day to make sure they were okay.
“So far they are doing well and I’m happy to hear that,” she said. “Unfortunately it is a war and we are trying to survive this devastating situation and hopefully we will get out of it soon.”
Bloxham and Malinovskaya felt the need to be with their fellow Ukrainians and help them however they could, even if the situation was difficult.