Olga and her children sat in a queue for 36 hours to get the last mile to Romania.
Vera misses her eldest son, whom she was forced to leave in Ukraine.
Yeva, Maria, and Lena had never met before, but their nine-year old’s found each other during the escape.
Meet the mothers who do everything to save their children from the horrors of war.
Just over 20 miles from the Star of Hope’s Day center in Dorohoi Romania is the border crossing Siret, which tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees have crossed since the beginning of the war. The flow continues today. Camelia Topala, who heads the center in Dorohoi, went to the border today just as she did the same day the war broke out.
"When I hugged the Ukrainian children, they felt frozen. That night I came home and just cried and cried," she says.
Since then, the Star of Hope has been in place 300 meters from the border. This is where we meet Vera with her son Emir in her arms. He is only three months old, but the siblings Dima and Nastja help to take care of him.
"We spent several nights outside our house and heard bombs falling," says Vera.
When they finally fled, her firstborn was not allowed to come with them. 18-year-old Vasia has been summoned and faces an uncertain future in the military.
The Romanian head office in Iasi, Romania, has also been redesigned to welcome refugee families. At that building, Olga sleeps with her mother Irina, children Myron and Sofia, sister-in-law Victoria and niece Alicia.
All spouses, fathers, and brothers were forced to say goodbye when they fled. When Olga tells, the tears come.
So many children have died! Others have been left alone, without parents! 6-year-old Sofia tries to comfort her mother. Olga strokes her daughter's cheek and straightens her back.
"A few weeks ago, we did not know how brave we were, she says. But now we know."
Two days later, more mothers arrive at the center in Iasi: Yeva with her son Pasha, Maria with her son Artom and Lena with her daughter Nastja. The children are nine years old, all three. They play in the dormitory and the boys laugh while wrestling for a computer tablet. For the moment, they do not have to worry about their fathers remaining in Ukraine. They look like childhood friends but have only known each other for a couple of days - and soon they will be separated, again.
Lena wants to go to Germany and Yeva has friends in Zurich. Maria, in turn, tries to get to Spain. "I have an old relative in Gibraltar," she says.
According to the plan, she would have already reached Cluj-Napoca in western Romania. "I wanted to Cluj a town in Romania but heard wrong at a transport center and took a bus to Husi instead," she says and laughs. She chats and jokes, seemingly unaffected by everything that has happened - but when someone slams a teacup behind her head, she jumps up and screams straight out. A second later, she buries her face in her hands. "Sorry!" she says, but everyone understands.
Every unexpected blow takes her back to the explosions in her hometown. The horrors of war leave traces even in those who manage to escape. Open wounds, even in the seemingly uninjured.
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