MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — A Middletown woman didn’t wait for the bloodshed to begin in Ukraine before she began working to get her sister, niece, and nephew out of the country.
Resilient Daniel, 5, and his younger sister, Elizabeth, 3, have seen things children shouldn’t see.
“Those are war kids,” their aunt Mariana Zakhidna said. “That’s what they call them in Ukraine.”
The kids and their 27-year-old mother Viktoria Zakhidna spent 10 days in western Ukraine after the Russian attacks began last month. Mariana began pressuring her to flee before the conflict escalated.
“I would listen to American news, what American politicians say, and what they were saying was not really aligning with what she was saying,” Mariana said.
Never did Viktoria imagine leaving her husband, father, and their belongings behind to travel 13 hours on a bus, passing a row of vehicles, watching women and children on foot, and hearing stories of children who froze to death en route to the Ukrainian-Polish border.
“This is so sad,” Viktoria said. “They died for nothing.”
Now, the hardest part, overcoming survivors’ guilt.
“Why do I get to have this and those people are dying?” Viktoria said. “It was really devastating for me. Why do people have to die? Why do kids have to die? This is not a war. This is terrorism. That is my personal opinion.”
Despite everything, Viktoria is in awe of what Connecticut has already done for her family in just three days. Donating clothes, books, beds and other items community members brought to the Ukrainian national home in Hartford.
“That means a lot. I see how people united,” Viktoria said. “Doesn’t matter nationality, language. That means a lot, too. I think love can… Mariana, Mariana.”
“She said that love will win over the war,” Mariana said, helping translate.