Mercedes Ortuno Lizarán |
Madrid (EFE).- Tetiana took refuge in Madrid just two weeks after the start of the Russian invasion. She was safe, far from the bombs falling on her country, but her body remained “frozen”: she felt the need to do something “useful” for Ukraine. At the end of May she decided to return to a “more or less safe” kyiv.
“I can risk my life because it is my decision,” he argues in an interview with EFE with the same cold blood with which he recognizes the danger he runs when a year of conflict ends: “I am very aware that perhaps in a week a Russian missile kill me. I know that I am in a country at war and that anything can happen at any time.”
Despite this, in a video call from a Kiev apartment that she shares with her dog Thor, this 26-year-old Ukrainian woman says that she prefers her home under the threat of attacks to a strange land in which she felt she could not contribute to “rebuild” their country and their economy.
Tetiana Siverska was born in a town in western Ukraine, near Khmelnitsky, but moved to kyiv ten years ago, where she graduated in biomedical engineering.
Not wanting to live “anywhere else”
Since her parents convinced her to flee Ukraine in early March 2022 and despite the uncertainty of the war, Tetiana already wanted to return. That is why she never thought of settling in Spain.
In addition, although she sought employment with the help of the Volunteers for Ukraine association, she says that the main requirement for any position was to be fluent in Spanish, and she is still learning it.
Spain has granted temporary protection – which gives them residence and work permits – to more than 168,000 Ukrainian citizens and residents, a third of whom are minors.
From her stay of just over two months in Madrid, in which she lived at the house of a distant relative, Tetiana is precisely grateful for “the work of the volunteers” and “the reception programs of the Government”.
However, being away from Ukraine was “psychologically very hard” for her, there was “nothing she could do” and “nothing” made her “enjoy”. “I didn’t want to live anywhere else,” she concludes without a shadow of a doubt.
Returned refugees: a difficult figure to estimate
Like Tetiana, a “significant” number of Ukrainians may have returned to their country from Spain, although the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, has assured this Wednesday that it is “very difficult” to make an estimate in this regard.
The Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance (CEAR) notes that 4% of the Ukrainian refugees it has attended have returned: of the almost 5,000 people the NGO has welcomed in its programs, some 220 have expressly stated that they were returning to Ukraine.
But another 33%, almost 2,000 people, have dispensed with the reception system without determining the reason for their departure, so they could have “returned to Ukraine, to neighboring countries or have stayed in Spain”, points out to EFE Mónica López, director of CEAR Programs.
“Right now, it seems that they are assuming that they are going to be in Spain longer than they initially thought, but the idea of returning is always on their mind, I suppose that it is the same as on the minds of other refugees who always yearn to return. to his country,” reflects López.
Return to “rebuild” a country
Saying goodbye to her parents on March 8, 2022, Tetiana said “goodbye forever.” She did not know then if she was going to be able to return, if the Russians would reach her town, or even “if Ukraine would continue to exist,” she recalls.
When kyiv regained relative safety, he did not hesitate to return. “I am an adult, I am healthy, I can do something. I can’t be far away when we have to rebuild our country, ”she thought at the time.
“I have a job here, I have my adorable puppy, I pay my taxes here, I buy clothes here, I donate every day to NGOs, to the soldiers who raise money (…). I feel that I can be useful. It means a lot to me and gives me a lot of power, ”he says in an interview with EFE.
For her, having returned to Ukraine is not a show of courage, but rather means “being responsible” for her future: “I don’t feel brave. I just love the life I had before February 24, 2022.”
“I love my country, my language. Now I have studied more Ukrainian culture because much of it was destroyed by the USSR (…). We are discovering ourselves as Ukrainians”, he adds.
Tetiana’s day to day in Kiev is quite “routine” thanks in part to her work at a Swiss pharmaceutical company, although everything “depends on the air alarms”, which have increased in the last week. “It seems that the Russian Army wants to congratulate us on a year of full-scale war,” she ironically.