My Oulu: Anna and her daughters fled the war-torn Ukraine and found refuge in Oulu – watch the video
Anna was one of the first Ukrainian refugees to arrive in Oulu. Anna documented the journey and told her story to freelance journalist Erika Benke.
Anna came to Oulu from the city of Poltava with her two daughters aged 4 and 11. Poltava is 140 km west from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city that has been under heavy bombardment since the beginning of the war.
“The air raid sirens went off all the time. We had to run and take cover. I couldn’t sleep. I just had to get out of there to save my children,” says Anna.
She considered taking a train from Kharkiv to Lviv, a city on Ukraine’s western border, but the station was so overcrowded that it was impossible to get on board a train with a young child.
Instead, they managed to get on a coach that took 26 hours to get to Lviv. From there volunteers drove them to the Polish border where they were given food and shelter.
“When we got to the border, I started searching the internet to find a way of getting to Finland. Why Finland? I had been working as a berry picker in Finland for two summers. I have friends and connections. I wouldn’t go to Germany or France where I don’t know anyone,” Anna explains.
Humanitarian aid from Oulu
Anna contacted the Ukrainians in Oulu and northern Finland Facebook group whose van had just arrived at the Polish border with humanitarian aid donated in Oulu. They offered to give Anna and her daughters a ride to Oulu which she gratefully accepted.
“I have to be strong. I don’t want to live on state handouts in Finland. I have arms and legs and a head. I’m looking for a job. I want to start working in Oulu as soon as possible.”
Anna’s husband and many relatives have remained at home in Ukraine, working to strengthen the defenses of Poltava.
“If Kharkiv falls, Poltava is next. It will be a battleground. Of course, I’m worried about my husband all the time. I’m safe here but I can’t stop thinking about my family and friends in war-torn Ukraine.”