Anastasiia Zavgorodko woke up at 4:30 a.m. on February 24 in her hometown of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, to shells and gunfire. She was six months pregnant with her first child and alone in the apartment.
The building trembled. I looked out the window and realized I had to finish packing my emergency bag and go,” said the 32-year-old from her new temporary home, the Royal Hotel in Bray, Co. Wicklow.
“That was the most horrible day of my life. It was so scary. Neither of us thought that the day would come when we had to go. We didn’t want to believe that day would come.”
She called her husband, Yevhenii, who worked at the Enerhodar nuclear power plant, about a six-hour drive away. “He couldn’t believe it either. They couldn’t hear the shelling from his location. He advised me to go to the toilet, it’s the safest place when there’s a bomb attack. But pretty soon I realized I wouldn’t be safe for long.
“I knew I had to go, so I finished packing, I didn’t bring my best things. I thought I would only be away for a short time. I never imagined that four weeks after leaving in Ireland would land home this morning because I am due to give birth to my baby soon.
“There’s a saying, ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.'”
Bags in hand, Anastasiia was taken by her sister-in-law to her own sister’s house, about half an hour away. Her sister, her brother-in-law and their three children were still asleep. The bombing had not yet hit their district.
“We decided it was the safest place, they had a garage and a basement that served well as a shelter.”
Later in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a televised address to the nation in which he confirmed that a state of emergency is now in place as Russia has invaded. Within a few hours, Anastasiia and her sister’s family made the decision to go to Enerhodar to join her husband.
“It was the safest place. Because nobody would ever attack a nuclear power plant, we thought. It is the largest in Europe. The air-raid sirens wailed, we grabbed the car, trembling.
“We’re lucky the car had gas because it soon ran out at every station, as did all the money from the ATMs and groceries from the shops. It took 12 hours to drive there because of so many people trying to get off. We got calls from our elderly relatives asking us not to go.
“Especially the older people didn’t want to leave their homes. It was very difficult to explain to them that we had to leave. My husband was also on the phone and told us to hurry, the Russians would surround the city.”
When they finally got to Enerhodar, they were housed in the basement of a school and given mattresses to sleep on. Her husband soon arrived with food and the couple were relieved to be reunited. But soon the Russians began to surround the city and announced plans to occupy it.
The city initially resisted. Then, in the early hours of March 4, Anastasiia couldn’t sleep and started reading the messages on her cell phone.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw. The nuclear power plant was attacked. It was the second worst day of my life. They shot at it. If it had caused a nuclear explosion, the consequences would have been worse than Chernobyl. We found out in the morning that an administration building was being shot at and finally the firefighters were allowed to put it out. People had started taking iodine tablets to protect themselves.”
Within days, Anastasiia, her sister, and their children decided it would be safest to leave. They finally secured the exit through a green corridor that only women and children were allowed to use
“We left on March 9th. The day before was International Women’s Day and my husband gave me flowers. I couldn’t take her with me. Saying goodbye to my husband was the hardest part.”
Several long journeys followed, until finally Anastasiia ended up in a small town in Ukraine near the Romanian border and slept on the floor of acquaintances. She and her husband had decided that Germany was the best place for them.
“That was the plan. We then learned how well Ukrainians were treated in Ireland, including some pregnant women my husband’s friend knew. So we changed the plan completely. I booked a ticket to Dublin and arrived here on March 19th.”
Since arriving, alone and not knowing anyone, Anastasiia said she was grateful for the kindness and compassion of the Irish people. She is expecting her baby early next month.
“I had planned everything at home, everything had been bought and of course my husband was there for the delivery. Now my husband cannot leave Ukraine. It’s very difficult to be apart.
“But I’m also grateful for my safety and the safety of my unborn child.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/my-husband-cant-leave-ukraine-it-is-difficult-being-apart-pregnant-woman-forced-to-flee-praises-irish-people-41581756.html “My husband cannot leave Ukraine. It’s difficult to be apart” – a pregnant woman forced to flee praises the Irish