The Ukraine war separated them – greetings from the front, greetings to the front


Not only did they have to leave their homes, they also had to say goodbye to their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons.

Almost 200,000 refugees have come to Germany in the past few weeks since the beginning of the war – almost exclusively women, children and the elderly. All men between the ages of 18 and 60 must remain in Ukraine. They are defending their homeland from Putin’s attack – risking their lives for freedom.

The sporadic contact with your loved ones due to unstable internet and power failure is all the more important. Their wives, mothers, children and sisters send them encouragement and love via video telephony or chats. The most important message: “We are fine in Germany, we are safe.”

In BILD am SONNTAG four families describe the agonizingly long weeks between fear and hope.

Greetings to the front

Natalya saw her brother Roman (36) for the last time in September 2021 – when his daughter Anna (6) started school. Now the girl and her brother Sascha (12) are staying with the 42-year-old in Berlin. They had to flee from Putin’s attack – their father stayed in Kyiv and is fighting for freedom.


Natalya (42) is worried about her brother Roman in Berlin

Natalya (42) is worried about her brother Roman in BerlinPhoto: Parvets

“We keep in touch via Facebook or WhatsApp,” says Natalya. “If he doesn’t call by 10 a.m., I’ll start praying and I’ll cry. Then when he says ‘everything okay’, I’m infinitely happy.”

Her niece and nephew lost their mother in a car accident just three years ago – now it is uncertain whether they will see their father again. “When we video chat with the kids, we talk about the weather and everyday life here. The little ones and I don’t know exactly what my brother experiences every day.”

However, they have identified a code for emergencies: “When Roman says, ‘I’m freezing to my toes,’ I know he’s scared and in danger.” Hopefully he doesn’t have to say that sentence.

“Just short messages to save electricity”

Olena Voitovska (54) and her daughter Olesia (24) are happy to be safe in Leipzig after their difficult escape. But her thoughts are with husband and father Oleg (49, financial manager) and son and brother Ilya (32, industrial engineer) around the clock.


Olena (54) and her daughter Olesia (24, left) are in Leipzig without a brother or father

Olena (54) and her daughter Olesia (24, left) are in Leipzig without a brother or fatherPhoto: Susann Friedrich

“We only keep in touch via mobile phone, usually only write one short message a day to save electricity,” says Olesia, who doesn’t even know where her loved ones are at the moment. Telephones are no longer used after 5 p.m., also for security reasons. “All we can do from here is let them know we’re fine.”


Oleg (49) and his son Ilya (32) stayed in their homeland to fight

Oleg (49) and his son Ilya (32) stayed in their homeland to fightPhoto: Private

They don’t know whether their family home in a suburb of Kyiv is still standing: “The house across the street has been destroyed. Before we fled, we sat in the basement for days – without electricity, heating or water.”

“He’s trying to be brave”

Dasha Shynkarova (39) had to leave her sick and weak father Viktor (75) in Kharkiv – she is now safe with her mother Olga in Berlin, 1844 kilometers away.


Dasha (39, right) and her mother Olga are staying in Berlin

Dasha (39, right) and her mother Olga are staying in BerlinPhoto: Michael Huebner

“I got my father a cell phone and set it up so that all he had to do was press the green button. He hasn’t had one before.” They make phone calls every day – but the network often breaks down. “I’m always worried if he doesn’t answer right away.”

The pensioner, who now takes care of the family dog ​​and cat, reports fights and explosions outside his window. Olga: “In the beginning he tried to be brave. But after 40 years of marriage, I can sense that he is very sad.”

“His voice gives me strength”

On February 28th, Anna (41) and her son Tom (8) crossed the Ukrainian-Slovakian border while fleeing the Russian bombs. They are now with friends in Nuremberg (Bavaria).


Anna (41) and Tom (8) are with friends in Nuremberg

Anna (41) and Tom (8) are with friends in NurembergPhoto: Lars Berg

Her husband Roman (40) stayed in Ukraine and supplied the army with medicines. “We talk on the phone several times a day. In the evenings I video call Roman so that he can see our son,” explains Anna, who met her husband in 2008 – they have never been apart for as long as they are now. “I’m really worried, I don’t know what’s to come. Sometimes I just call him to hear his voice.”


novel (40)

novel (40)Photo: Private

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Greetings from the front

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Oksana (39) from Potsdam bought a used car for 5,500 euros. She gave notice of her Brandenburg apartment and went to Kyiv, where she had previously lived for 15 years.

Now the native Ukrainian lies every day in a defense post just outside the capital. Like her boyfriend Oleg (34), she secondarily supports the soldiers of the volunteer army. The Russian soldiers are only five kilometers away from them, says Oksana.​


Oksana and Oleg came from Germany to fight for their homeland

Oksana and Oleg came from Germany to fight for their homelandPhoto: Private

She is one of what are believed to be thousands of Ukrainians who have come from abroad to defend their homeland. The 39-year-old has lived in Germany for the last two and a half years and worked as a gastronomy specialist in a star restaurant. She dreamed of opening her own cafe. Now their everyday life is war.

“We hear the artillery and the anti-aircraft system every day,” says Oksana to BamS. “Window shaking. We watch something flying all the time: rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, I don’t always know what it is.” But she’s slowly learning to distinguish the sounds.​

“I’m also learning to use weapons myself,” reports Oksana. For days she has been doing emergency shooting training – with the Kalashnikov and the pistol. She doesn’t actually want to fight, so she is also training in military first aid to care for the wounded. And at night she takes turns with the soldiers to keep watch.​


Oksana (39) with a pistol (Fort-19 type, caliber 9 mm) in a leg holster.  In her helmet she has palyanytsya – Ukrainian flatbread that people bake for the soldiers in a destroyed village

Oksana (39) with a pistol (Fort-19 type, caliber 9 mm) in a leg holster. In her helmet she has palyanytsya – Ukrainian flatbread that people baked for the soldiers in a destroyed villagePhoto: Private

Retreat for Oksana, her boyfriend and the others is a private house. Ukrainians provided it to the soldiers of the Volunteer Army. In front of the baby photos of the actual residents there are now hand grenades and ammunition on the dresser.​

Does Oksana want to have children one day? She says: “Yes”. And after a long break: This is one of the reasons why she and her boyfriend considered whether it was right to be in Ukraine now. “But it’s our choice to stay here and take care of each other.”​


Ukrainians left their house to the soldiers: hand grenades are now lying on the dresser in front of baby photos and a milk bottle

Ukrainians left their house to the soldiers: hand grenades are now lying on the dresser in front of baby photos and a milk bottlePhoto: Private

To each other – and to their common homeland: “Yes, I could travel anywhere and live anywhere. But like everyone else, I want to have a home. The Germans have Germany, the Swiss have Switzerland, the Americans have the United States. I can’t imagine losing my homeland.”​ But there’s more to it than that: “We Ukrainians like freedom, democracy. If we don’t defend them here, who should?”


Oksana's friend Oleg, 34, near Kyiv with a Swedish anti-tank guided missile and a heart that reads

Oksana’s friend Oleg, 34, near Kyiv with a Swedish anti-tank guided missile and a heart that reads “I love,” which he holds up for his Ukrainian homelandPhoto: Private

This is how many Ukrainians feel, even though they left their country. A friend of Oksana came from Poland to fight. You called Dmytro a few days ago. “He said he’s not afraid of dying.” Shortly afterwards he was killed in Odessa.​ A friend who went to Mariupol has not reached Oksana for two weeks now. Is the girlfriend still alive? Oksana doesn’t know.​

And yet: Giving up is not an option for Oksana and many others. “Putin wants to use his bombs to show that nowhere in Ukraine is safe. But even in the dangerous suburbs of Kyiv, where our defense post is located, simple people still live. You don’t want to be safe. It’s her home. you want to stay They cook for us every day. Everyone wants to do something to help.”​


The Ukraine war separated them: greetings from the front, greetings to the front
Photo: BILD

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