[Ukraine Alumni Story] KDIS Bro-Sisterhood
- Date 2022-04-14 15:00
About Galyna Solovei
Galyna Solovei is an Ukrainian alumna of KDI School of Public Policy and Management. She was a Master’s student of Development Policy (MDP) KDI between September 2016 and May 2018. To this day, Galyna still cherishes the unforgettable experiences and opportunities that KDI School has brought her way. She is most especially grateful for the gift of friends and value-adding friendship, some of whom have actually rescued her in what can be described as the most critical moment of her life, the Russia and Ukraine war. The act of kindness she has received from her KDIS classmates has saved her life and that of her three daughters from the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Since her graduation, Galyna has been working as a Senior Lecturer at the International Relations Department of one of the leading universities in Ukraine, Kyiv Mohyla Academy. Galyna teaches “Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies”.
The Unfolding Of War
According to her, the war began on 24th of February with a deafening bomb explosion a few kilometers away from her residence in Kyiv. - the same day she was supposed to have a lecture session with some of her students. Afew days after, the atmosphere in Kyiv had become tense with continuous explosion of bombs around the neighborhood, leaving several buildings and infrastructure in an absolute wreck. A curfew was imposed, which lasted from 5pm on February 18 to February 26. Galyna and her 3 daughters were trapped in the house in confusion and trepidation.
As of 27th of February, the whole situation had escalated, one of her former KDIS classmates in Myanmar reached out to adopt her youngest daughter. She was deeply moved by such an expression of kindness and at the same time she felt sad at how things had changed in Ukraine. For Galyna, she felt strongly obliged with the onus to personally save and care for her daughters and was not willing to offer her for adoption. Hence, she was determined to fight tooth and nail to secure the safety of her daughters. Her first attempt to escape Kyiv with her daughters was boycotted by her oldest daughter, crying and demanding to stay at home and not go anywhere. That same night, bombs fell again and air raid sirens sounded. At dawn, the girls packed their belongings and agreed to escape Kyiv.
A Mother’s Love
For Galyna, her intention was to escape through the Kyiv rail station. On getting to the rail station, it was crowded with people fleeing the war zone. Trains were delayed for many hours. While waiting for the train, Galyna got a message from Geert Slabbekoorn, a former KDIS classmate, telling her that his parents in the Netherlands had a free room and were ready to provide a safe shelter for Galyna’s family. She acknowledged the gesture but mentioned that she would prefer to stay with her friends in Lviv. Shortly after, their train arrived and they took off for Lviv.
After a challenging and eventful journey to Lviv, Galyna and her daughters eventually got to her friend in Lviv. The accommodation was a two-room apartment, which in Galyna’s estimation could not be less than 600 years old. There were already 4 people staying in the same apartment. Everyone huddled together just to create a space for Galyna and her three daughters.
The cramped situation at her friend’s house in Lviv forced her to reconsider the offer to stay in the Netherlands. Galyna wrote to Geert of her intention to come to the Netherlands. Immediately, she mapped out the safest possible route by train: Warsaw-Berlin-Amsterdam.
The Journey To Berlin
Due to serious traffic jams on the Lviv roads, Galyna and her daughters struggled to make it to the bus station to get transport across the Polish border. They got lucky after several hours of struggle. They drove an hour and a half through Poland, then the shocking event happened. The bus driver left mothers with children in front of the closed doors of the bus station in Zamosc and went back to Ukraine leaving the passengers to fend for themselves in the middle of a foggy night. Galyna had never been so confused and frightened like she was that night, she was completely bereft of what to do. Fortunately, a young Polish woman approached one of her daughters and both got into conversation in English. The woman, who had come to the station to pick up a relative, decided to offer and organize transportation for Galyna and her daughters.
The European Union had guaranteed free travel for refugees from Ukraine, but there were so many refugees that it was so difficult to find standing places in the corridors of the train. The journey to Berlin was not also without challenges and setbacks. Galyna’s youngest daughter was crushed in a crowd and injured. After arriving in Berlin, Galyna experienced a fresh breath of peace and tranquility after many days of chaos and troubles. The young Polish woman took Galyna and her daughters in, and offered them their first decent meal after several days. Galyna could not fathom the big-heartedness of the Polish woman, how she was so passionate about getting three strangers through their difficult time.
Galyna’s Reception In Amsterdam
The following morning, they left for Amsterdam. The journey from Berlin to Amsterdam took 5 straight hours. Eventually, Galyna and her family got to Amsterdam and were received by Geert and his parents. Looking back on her journey, Galyna could not contain her joy and gratitude to everyone who had played an important role in ensuring the safety of her family amidst turbulence and war. In spite of the sad experience and the situation in her home country, Galyna remains hopeful that in a few weeks’ time she will be able to return to Kyiv and her students, and that her daughters will grow up to share their formative experience of beauty and kindness.
* The article was published in The JoongAng Daily, a Korean newspaper, in March. Please visit the link to read Galyna's full story. ☞ https://url.kr/jdrahe
First picture: Galyna and Geert at KDI School in 2017.
Second picture: Galyna and Geert at his parents’ house on 5th March, 2022.
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