Russia-Ukraine crisis: Ukrainian expats in UAE fear for families' safety back home

Within minutes of Putin’s televised address, explosions ripped through Kyiv and other major cities



AFP
AFP
by

Anjana Sankar

Published: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 4:06 PM

Last updated: Fri 25 Feb 2022, 9:38 AM

Ukrainian expats in the UAE are gripped by fear and panic for the safety of their family and friends back home as their country has come under a military attack from Russia.

Within minutes of Putin’s televised address at about 5am Ukrainian time, explosions ripped through Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities.

“I had a hysteric break down in the morning when I saw the news,” said Olga, an Ukrainian expat who is from Kharkiv, a city on the Eastern border.

She said her hometown is getting bombed and she feels helpless.

“There were missile attacks and bombs. My parents and siblings are staying indoors. I am constantly in touch with them. It is scary,” said Olga, an administrative professional, who does not want to revel her last name.

She said the family is planning to move her sister-in-law and two-year old niece to Western Ukraine but the rest of them will stay in Kharkiv.

“My father and brother are winding up their construction business and joining the armed forces. We have no choice but to resist the invaders,” she said.

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There are an estimated 15,000 Ukrainians in the UAE.

Mariaa Kolmaier, a 31-year-old Business Development Consultant from Kyiv region, said she is ‘shaking’ as she thinks about her family.

“My family is from Bila Tserkava, 60 kms away from the capital city. There was heavy bombing of the military airport and other buildings,” she said.

“I spoke to my mother in the morning and she said they woke up to the deafening noise of explosions. The bombings have stopped but they can hear jet planes hovering in the sky. They are living a war,” Kolmaier told Khaleej Times.

“I cannot concentrate on work. My friends are all panicking and crying.”

She said terrified families are buying gas, medicines and other essentials for the coming days. “Luckily, the internet and phone lines are still open and I can be in touch with them. But I cannot send them money as most banks are closed.”

“There are many Ukrainians who are fleeing through the Polish and Romanian border. But my family has decided to stay. Most of my friends are enrolling in the army to fight the Russians. We have to stand united,” said Kolmaier addig that Ukrainians are heavily counting on the International community to stop the war.

‘We cannot hold against the Russian army for too long,” she said.

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Another long-time Ukrainian expat Yevheniy Semenov, a Computer Professional based in Abu Dhabi, said he is helping the embassy to coordinate and pass reliable information to the community.

“I can tell you that everyone is worried. We know that if this doesn't stop it will turn into a long, bloody war,” said Semenov.

“My family is in the West and they are safe for now. But it is a matter of time before the war can spread to their city,” he said.

According to him, people are standing united and helping each other during the crisis.

“There are also many Ukrainian tourists who are stranded in the UAE. The embassy and the community is also helping them with affordable accommodation. We have no idea when they can go back as the airspace is closed,” said Semenov.


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