People story


Story 19: Anastasiia and Veronika

In the war-torn Luhansk region, two sisters, Anastasia, 15 years old, and Veronika, 13 years old, lived with their mother when their city came under the control of Russian forces at the onset of a full-scale conflict. All evacuation routes to Ukraine-controlled territory were blocked by the Russians, and the designated “green corridors” were barely functional. Faced with a difficult decision to protect her daughters from potential harm by Russian soldiers and city shelling, their mother saw that the only escape route was through Russia to Europe – this was the sole option to avoid forced deportation by Russian forces or death.

Their destination was the city of Ryazan in western Russia, where they had distant relatives. Upon arrival, Anastasiia and Veronika were hesitant to settle for an extended period. However, financial constraints prevented them from reaching the border and escaping Russia. As a result, they found themselves temporarily residing in Ryazan. In September, 15-year-old Anastasiia enrolled in a local college, while 13-year-old Veronika attended school. There, they faced daily bullying due to their Ukrainian ethnicity.

Anastasiia and Veronika

Tragedy struck on 17 December when their mother died of heartbreak. Russian authorities placed Anastasiia and Veronika in an orphanage on the same day, leaving them alone in a foreign country, where they endured ongoing verbal abuse.

Back in Ukraine, the girls had an older sister named Kateryna, who lived in the Volyn region. Upon learning of their mother’s death and the desperate situation her younger siblings were in, Kateryna set out on a mission to reunite the family. After a day of mourning, she diligently sought help through various hotlines and eventually connected with Minister of Reintegration Iryna Vereshchuk. The minister provided the necessary funds for Kateryna to travel to Russia and bring Anastasiia and Veronika home. Following a four-day journey, Kateryna successfully retrieved her sisters from the orphanage in Ryazan and returned them to Ukraine. Now, after their harrowing experiences of forced residence in Russia, they live together in a village in Volyn.


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