To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Ukrainian refugee who was forced to flee new home says she is 'very, very lucky' one year on

Ukrainian refugee who was forced to flee new home says she is 'very, very lucky' one year on

Nadiia and her son fled Kharkiv after Putin's war began

On 24 February 2022, Nadiia and her son were forced to flee Ukraine amid the outbreak of war. One year on, the pair are more settled, but still don't know when - or if - they'll ever get to go home.

I first spoke with Nadiia one month after Vladimir Putin declared the start of a 'special military operation' in Ukraine, where the mother had only recently bought her new home.

After hearing the first explosions ring out in Kharkiv, Nadiia shoved essentials into two bags and fled with her son, Mark, in the car.

Nadiia and Mark left home with two bags and their car.

They eventually settled in Portugal, where Nadiia found 'amazing support for refugees from Ukraine'. She and Mark were initially granted temporary protection status for one year, but as the war in Ukraine continues, their protections were recently extended for another year.

Support aside, though, things were tough for Nadiia at first. She and Mark initially found residence in the 'small and quiet' city of Carcavelos, and Nadiia admitted the first few months after escaping Ukraine were 'tough'.

"I was isolated, I got depression," she told UNILAD. She didn't speak Portuguese, but was at least able to communicate with people by speaking English.

Over time, Nadiia was offered a job in an IT company and Mark was enrolled at a school, though Nadiia admitted her son has been having 'problems' there.

"My son doesn’t know English, so he has no escape and was forced to speak Portuguese," Nadiia explained.

Nadiia is starting to feel more positive about life in Portugal.

Being thrown into the deep end forced Mark to learn 'very good Portuguese', but he misses his friends, his dad and his nanny from Ukraine.

He's not alone. Nadiia admitted: "I miss a lot my friends, my son's nanny. I miss Kharkiv and Ukraine itself."

A few months after the war began, Nadiia returned briefly to Ukraine to pick up all the things she needed from home, but hadn't been able to grab on that first day.

She was grateful to find her house 'in order' as that part of the city was 'not so heavily bombed', but the country still isn't safe for her and Mark.

In Portugal, things have started to look up slightly. More recently, Nadiia and Mark have moved to Lisbon, where Nadiia hopes there will be 'more opportunities to meet new people' and get involved in more events.

Nadiia is still hopeful she'll be able to return to Ukraine.

Nadiia is trying to enrol Mark into a new school, a 'long process full of bureaucracy', and one year after having to say goodbye to her home, Nadiia said she is now feeling 'better'.

She's made friends with other Ukrainian refugees and with some expats, and made clear that she is a 'very very lucky person', because all of her closest friends from home are 'safe and sound'.

Nadiia is still learning Portuguese, but she's hopeful she'll be able to go back to Ukraine permanently one day.

For now, though, she 'can't say' when that might be. There's no end in sight for the war, but even when it's over, the mum 'needs to be sure' that it will be safe.

"Portugal is amazing country," she said, but she knows where her home is. "I really love Ukraine."

Featured Image Credit: Supplied

Topics: Ukraine, World News, Vladimir Putin, Russia