‘We couldn’t let go’: War tears young Ukrainian families apart. WGN Radio 720

BRASOV, ROMANIA (AP) — When university student Vlada Yushchenko was a teenager and nearly three months pregnant, she hugged her husband at the border, turned her back, and stepped into Moldova.

Now she is in Romania, one of the millions of Ukrainians forced to flee the Russian invasion. Her baby Daniel was born there eight months ago and is still 21 At the age of 12, like most men of combat age, he has not met his father, Yaroslav, who is forbidden to leave Ukraine.

Stories of young families being forcibly separated are all too common among the estimated 110,000 Ukrainian refugees in Romania, mostly women and children.

“No one expected the war to start, no one thought we could never be together,” and a terminally ill grandmother.

“For a long time we couldn’t let each other go,” she said. also understood.”

As the war enters its second year, the lack of physical contact between a father learning computer programming in Kyiv and his baby is exacerbated. Still, their smartphones make families feel connected.

“Sometimes tears come to my eyes, but when we see each other in the video, we are very happy. On the day Daniel was born, “I called (Yaroslav) and sent him a picture as soon as possible,” she added. . “It was so moving, he was so happy, it was unforgettable.”

But even that virtual link isn’t always there.

In recent months, Russian strikes have targeted critical energy infrastructure across vast swaths of Ukraine, making communications difficult at times. Yushchenko said Yaroslav tried to assuage her concerns by warning her of a possible blackout and telling her not to panic during her silent hours.

Still, watching war footage unfold in Ukraine and knowing her husband is there only adds to her worries.

Yushchenko, who continues to study mathematics and physics remotely at the Kyiv Polytechnic University while caring for her baby, said: “It’s very hard to watch the news and see the devastation, the missile attacks, the deaths. It’s difficult,” he said. “I pray every day that everything will be fine … in the city where[Yaroslav]lives and in general.”

Her faith, among other things, helps her through her trials.

When Daniel was six months old, she decided to have her baptized at the local Orthodox church. The priest lived in an apartment and waived the customary costs of the ceremony. Yushchenko said they attend Sunday services as much as possible.

In her daily life, she often walks with Daniel around Brasov for “very long walks, sometimes all day”. She also sees other Ukrainian mothers living locally, who she says can talk about babies and motherhood.

More than eight million Ukrainians have fled to other European countries since the civil war began. This is the largest refugee outflow since World War II.

More than 4,000 people are registered at the Migrant Integration Center in Brasov, according to Astrid Hamburger, founder of the non-governmental organization that has helped many of them, including Yushchenko’s family, find housing, medical care and social assistance. .

Yushchenko said he hoped that Ukraine would win the war, go home, and finally be together as a family, and that Daniel would see his father. .

“It will be an unforgettable encounter. Our children are our happiness,” she said.

When asked what he prays for in the Brasov church, Yushchenko does not hesitate to answer.

“I wish my family and friends good health and peaceful skies in this country,” she said.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: ‘We couldn’t let go’: War tears young Ukrainian families apart. WGN Radio 720

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