A path paved with suffering and mines, a loss of home – maybe forever. The Darsania family left the war and 2666 kilometers behind them, but what they experienced is etched in the minds of people in Tyrol.
“I don’t know if my family is still alive,” Sofiya told the “Tiroler Krone” almost two months ago. It was the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Sofiya has lived in Innsbruck for seven years, her family lived in Mariupol, a bomb-stricken port city. The pictures she got on her cell phone were terrible: of the basement, of fear, of the war – until she got no more messages, which was even more terrible. Silence. It was heard that the electricity in Mariupol was gone, and so was the water. Contact had been broken for days when Sofiya spoke with the “crown”.
Thank god they made it
The family has now arrived in Tyrol. “Thank God they came out of hell called Mariupol,” says Sofiya. What happened when contact was broken, how could the family flee? Sofiya’s sisters Maka and Kateryna and their mother Marina tell the story of their long and perilous journey to Tyrol, while Sofiya interprets for the “Krone”.
Life or country: a decision that is not one
There were many corpses. But her family was still alive. ‘We had to bury them,’ they say, ‘you couldn’t just leave them in the street. Among the dead was a three-year-old child. Eleven of them were in the basement of their house when a family came by whose house was being bombed and had Russian soldiers in their yard. Then another family lived on the ninth floor and now also took refuge in the basement of the Darsania family. The more bombs dropped, the closer you had to huddle in the basement before entering the hallway.”
In the end, 27 people, including two pregnant women, were squeezed into a confined space. Outside there was continuous fire. It was 11pm on March 10, and they were trying to fall asleep when an explosion nearby shook the basement to the point where there was no other way out: they fled to the school, whose windows were smashed and the roof destroyed.
Long queues for water
Life in war is hard: long lines of people to fetch water, cooking over an open fire. Hygiene, medication? No. The father is a diabetic. The twelve-year-old child develops a fever. Some days there was no bread. “We’re going to die here,” Sofiya’s older sister thought, but somehow they wanted to get the kids out. “Take her with you,” one said to a neighbor who still had a working car. Her own was bombed. The adults fled on foot from the rubble that had once been their hometown. Mariupol, a port city that no longer exists.
From being separated and finding each other again
They fled along the beach because it seemed safer. The mother, in her mid-sixties, had pain in her legs and could barely walk. A car eventually took her to the next town. Miraculously they found each other again, there was no electricity to charge mobile phones. “We were shocked. We didn’t think how to find each other again. But fate has brought us back together,” the family said. They fled inland. The war had not yet arrived in central Ukraine. From Mariupol to Ursuf, on to Berdyansk, where the children were found again. Then on to Zaporizhzhya.
There were five buses with far too many people crammed into them. The family was separated again. “Being separated from the family during the flight is the worst thing there is,” the older sister says. For a distance of 300 kilometers the buses needed 23 hours. The alarm went off all the time, the bus had to stop all the time. Kateryna stood 19 hours, there was no seat for her. Then the warning: the road had been dug. Everyone got out, two buses drove in parallel – empty except for the bus driver – everyone else followed. It wouldn’t affect them “at least”. “Many people died from the mines,” she says.
Not a minute without mourning, everything reminds of home
Sofiya has been living in Innsbruck for seven years and therefore the goal of the family was Tyrol. For the second time, they had to leave a good life behind. Yet they are not bitter, but grateful to the Tyroleans for everything they receive as a gift. Yet the mother often cries. Everything is reminiscent of home, says the older sister. You often think about Mariupol, every day, every minute, every second. They all have nightmares.
The child runs a fever and asks if he should die. The doctors at the Innsbruck clinic can’t find a reason, they say it’s psychosomatic. The trauma is written on their faces, they can hardly talk to anyone, the language barrier is too great. The mother dreams and prays every day that she may return to Mariupol. It’s her only dream. They have fled the war in Ukraine, but they cannot escape the wounds in their hearts.