“Mom tried to calm me down, saying everything will be OK. I believed her, I had to.”
Translation is available for this contentVáltás magyarra
16-year-old Danylo and his family fled from Zaporizhzhia to Hungary on 25 February. Next to his home town, 1500 km from Budapest, functions Europe’s largest nuclear plant, one of the war’s major strategic targets. Already in the first days, Russian Special Forces attacked it. News of fights and nuclear risks have been coming almost daily from the place ever since.
Months before the attack, locals had been discussing that Russian troops were waiting at the border. But then it seemed unbelievable that they would have to flee someday.
“On the first day of the war, we went to school in the morning. Someone advised us to grab some water if we can, because we’ll need it. Everyone panicked, we didn’t know what would happen to us. My mother decided fast, she tried to pack as soon as possible, so that we could leave immediately. She was afraid, we were afraid, but we had to act. We packed a bag with medicine and food.”
tells the boy.
“We heard the missiles, we heard lots of planes, so we had to go to a shelter until our departure on the following day. It was difficult to live through this. Until then, we hadn’t known what war was, we had only learned about it in school. Of course, we also talked about it, but we had been sure nothing could ever hurt us at home. We were wrong. My little sister didn’t even understand what was happening to us.”
They crossed the border on foot. They could reach Hungary faster than those who fled by car. After 9 pm, they were already out of Ukraine. Here they rented a car, which brought them directly to Budapest.
“Some of my friends stayed at home, but everyone fled from my family. Those who stayed in Ukraine fled to distant cities that the Russians haven’t reached, where there were no shootings. It’s extremely difficult for them, they couldn’t work, they became poor, and they don’t know what would happen to them.”
The family could settle in Budapest. Danylo’s father works in the construction industry, and his mother in a beauty salon. She did something similar at home, she used to have her own salon.
In the beginning, his father’s boss rented them a flat, where they stayed for 3 months – but by then they really wanted their own rental.
“My parents had been searching an awful lot, until an acquaintance helped them find a flat to rent. Now we live here, and we pay for it.”
“Hungary is a truly beautiful country. I like the city, the elegant style of the buildings. Compared to Zaporizhzhia, there’s also a lot of green here. I’m calm. I feel safe. I’m learning the Hungarian language, I have friends, and I go to school here together with other non-Hungarian speakers.
Danylo doesn’t rely on being able to return home soon. “Whatever happens, the Ukrainian economy has been driven to the verge of bankruptcy. It will be difficult to rebuild the country after the terrible destruction and the enormous war expenses. Ukraine will have rough times.”