A couple of weeks ago, Olena (49), her husband (57) and daughter Nastia (19) visited Košice HotSpot to get some information about life in Slovakia. During their visit, they recalled dramatic events of the past year that made them leave their home town Mykolaiv and shared their story. 

The day before the outbreak of the war, Olena's husband had been discharged from the hospital after a severe case of Covid 19 with complications. The couple was ready to go back to work and to continue selling things in a small kiosk in the market close to their house.

In the morning they arrived to work early and heard explosions, but they could not believe what they heard was the beginning of the war. "At that moment, a friend from the military called and told us that the war had started," Olena remembered feelings of shock. 

The family tried to live from day to day. "We went to work, hid during air raids, helped other people, supported the army, learned to distinguish between different types of ammunition," Olena's husband recalls the wartime living in Ukraine. 

The market where the kiosk of the family was located was near the railway station and numerous factories. One day in June 2022, Olena and her husband had just come to work and saw rockets flying. “One of them fell near to us and hit the factory, and my husband and I felt the shock wave. Intuitively, we called our daughter. She said that half our house was destroyed. Nastia, our daughter, was miraculously alive," Olena recalled these moments emotionally.

Their daughter Nastia was wounded by shrapnel and when they managed to help her get out of the ruins, she was holding their dog in her arms and they were both covered in blood. 

After the attack, the family was helped by friends and acquaintances, who offered to shelter them for as long as they could. "We couldn’t leave because my husband had heart problems and needed to be under constant medical supervision. My daughter Nastia was injured, and something was always holding us back," Olena said.

The family stayed in Mykolaiv until there was almost no one left in the city, no electricity and no water supply. "We need constant medical check-ups. My husband is disabled and my daughter has been disabled since childhood. Slovakia is close and we could go to Ukraine to see doctors in case of any problems." Olena, her husband and Nastia were travelling in a car that had been damaged by rocket debris. They carried only a few things and, of course, their two pets, a dog and a cat. 

Dennik 3 Olena WM

IOM frontline workers talked to Olena and her family and offered them informational and humanitarian support. Photo © International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2023 

Since their arrival in Slovakia, the family has been accommodated thanks to the partnership between Airbnb and IOM. "We have been continuously supported by IOM staff, Airbnb and volunteers from the first point of contact in Kosice HotSpot and we are very grateful to everyone. We hope we will find peace here and that we will stand back on our feet again," Olena wished.

The family has found a long-term accommodation and they are preparing to move. 

These stories are collected by IOM frontline teams with the consent of respondents.

Read more stories from Slovak-Ukrainian borders:

Diary from the borders #1: Ukrainian family of five reunited and found peace in Slovakia 

Diary from the borders #2: Svetlana is on the way to start a new life in Slovakia 

IOM Legal Counsellor: It is my mission to provide help and support to people from Ukraine

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