A new beginning in Berlin: the Ukrainian wants to get out of the expected state policy

Before Olha (right) came to host Ulla in Berlin-Friedenau, she lived in an initial reception center on the site of a former mental hospital in Berlin-Reineckendorf. Photo: Christoph Soeder / dpa


The first from Kyiv witnessed the start of the Russian attack on the night train in February. The fear of those hours is still in her bones. She sees her future in Berlin first.

BERLIN – The first of them wants to stay in Germany for the time being.

The young woman with a big smile says she knows a number of her compatriots who have returned to Ukraine in the past few weeks – because they couldn’t stand it without relatives or because they found it difficult to get used to local customs.

But that’s not an option for her right now, she says. “I understand German culture, I speak the language.” The 30-year-old spent a few days with her parents in Ukraine for Easter. But the constant wailing of sirens, fear and uncertainty reached her.

I studied German

Now the Ukrainian blonde has returned to Berlin-Friedenau, to live again in the guest room of Ulla’s spacious apartment in the old building, where a Syrian refugee used to stay. A Ukrainian lawyer from the neighborhood brought the retired manager and accountant from Kyiv together in early April.

When she met the lawyer involved in helping Ukrainian refugees, the first of them was living in an initial reception facility on the site of the Karl Bonhoeffer Psychiatric Clinic in Berlin-Reineckendorf. With her language skills, the German Studies graduate has helped as a translator at the facility, where those seeking protection usually only stay for a short time. “It was fine, I was always busy, and I can help,” she says. This helped her suppress thoughts of war at home.



But then the inhabitants of the dwelling stole a pillow and other things from their room. That’s why she was so happy at the end when she had the chance to move in with Ulla. For Ukrainian women who are in Germany with family or friends, it may be easier to live in such accommodation. As a woman alone, you didn’t feel comfortable in the building as you can’t lock the room door.

There is no clear perspective – this torment

Its 74-year-old host says the first one was “a stroke of luck”. Since the Ukrainian speaks German very well, it is easy to communicate. Young lady is very independent. I’ve also now received a commitment to a paid internship, which should start on June 1. The first left her job as a public accountant and rented her apartment in a high-rise building in Kyiv.

“At first I thought I would only stay in Germany for a few days or weeks, but I know that all refugees think this way,” says the Ukrainian. After all, seven years ago, I worked for an organization that takes care of displaced people from Donbass and refugees from Syria and Afghanistan. So she knows how painful the lack of a clear perspective for her is.

Just before the outbreak of the war, Olha sent parcels from Kyiv containing some of her clothes to her parents, who live in western Ukraine, near the Belarusian border. “The war was already in the air — and I didn’t want to stand there like so many of these people who told me they only went out with a T-shirt and slippers,” she says.

Explosions emerged from a train window ‘like fireworks’

On February 23 – a few hours before the start of the Russian bombing – the first of them, not wanting to publish her last name, took the night train to Kovel. In the early hours of the morning she saw explosions from the train window. It seemed unreal to her, “like fireworks.” Her father came to Covel by car to pick her up. At this point in the story, the first of them begins to cry. She did not touch the black tea, which was slowly cooling in the cup in front of her. “I’m working on calm,” says the young woman.

In their parents’ house, they slept in the hallway for the first few nights. Ullah said that because there are many lakes in the area, homes in this area do not have basements to shelter in. Her brother said she was “panicky,” someone who panicked easily. He urged her to go to Berlin via Poland. He told her, “If we all die, you should stay.”

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