Natalya Nuzhina watches as her young son draws with colored chalk on the sidewalk in front of the house in Olx Praca’s West End where they now live.
This is a world away from the real home of the family, in Odessa, Ukraine.
“I miss my life because it was simple. I had a job, kindergarten, school. I had everything in the house as I want, ”she said.
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“I left Odessa on the third day of the war with two children of ten and three years old. We crossed the border with Moldova. It takes eight hours and then we go to Bucharest, Romania,” she recalls.
Nuzhina had to go through this journey without her husband, who remained to fight.
Her father, who is 81 years old, also remained in Odessa.
“I could not sleep. I couldn’t eat. My children were under a lot of stress,” she said, recalling the beginning of the war.
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Nuzhina is now adjusting to life in Olx Praca and says she is grateful to her family and community for their support.
“I did not expect such support… I am very grateful,” she said.
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“When it became clear that the visa was about to be issued, and we had an approximate date for its arrival, we understood:“ Ok, now we need to create infrastructure here, ”explained Jennifer Phelan, Nuzhina’s cousin.
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“(We) started reaching out to neighbors and family to address basic needs first, like where they are going to live, to raise some money to keep them alive,” she added.
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Phelan contacted the landlord online, who offered a basement apartment for free as long as Nuzhina needed it.
“From the post where I was looking for subsidized housing, many other people who had nothing to offer said, “Okay, but we have a lot of clothes for small children, or toys, or art supplies.” she recalled. “A female former ESL teacher who lives quite close in Roncesvalle now comes every Monday to give private English lessons.”
Nuzhina left Ukraine with two bags and a suitcase filled with photographs and her tools for making leather goods.
“These memories I want to keep…because they are special,” she said.
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Nuzhina’s daughter is in the fourth grade at a school in Olx Praca, and her son is starting kindergarten.
“Sometimes he asks: “So, the father is at home, and we are here? But where are we? He doesn’t understand, she said.
Although she does not regret her decision to leave, Nuzhina said she was wondering when she could return to Ukraine and if she could return.
“Now we are safe. We are in a good place,” she said, adding that “we have to live every day.“
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