Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Ukrainian family nervously awaits texts from parents hiding in makeshift bomb shelter



More news, no ads

LEARN MORE


Crouching in a small pit that was once used for fixing their car, a Cambridge woman’s in-laws have been waiting out the bombardment of their city in Ukraine.

Nataliia Gubanova, pictured, has been staring at her phone all day waiting for their messages, terrified of what she may hear about them and her own parents, who have also been hiding in a bomb shelter in Kyiv during the Russian invasion.

So far, both sets of parents have been in contact every morning to reassure her and her husband, Vitalii, that they made it through the night. But everything is uncertain.

Vasyl and Valentina, Nataliia Gubanova's in laws, in their makeshift bomb shelter. (55222243)
Vasyl and Valentina, Nataliia Gubanova's in laws, in their makeshift bomb shelter. (55222243)

Nataliia, a clinical team manager for a Cambridge research organisation, said: “We make sure that when we talk to my parents and my husband’s parents over WhatsApp that we let them speak on video with our children, because we don’t know if it will be the last time.

“We’re getting in touch every morning and every night to check how they are. My parents texted me this morning [Tuesday] to say they’re alive. They are in a bomb shelter in Kyiv. And my parents-in-law did the same as well from their city, Chernihiv, which was under heavy attack yesterday. A huge supermarket there was bombed yesterday.

“They’re very scared, very horrified.

Nataliia Gubanova with her children at the demonstration in Cambridge. (55222239)
Nataliia Gubanova with her children at the demonstration in Cambridge. (55222239)

“They don’t know what the day of the week is now and they don’t know what date it is any more.

“All they know is that this is the sixth day of war, which is horrible.

“My parents live in an apartment and they can go to the ninth floor to watch the bombs falling on the city. That’s when they know they have to go to the bomb shelter.”

Nataliia Gubanova's in laws Vasyl and Valentina before the war. (55222241)
Nataliia Gubanova's in laws Vasyl and Valentina before the war. (55222241)

Nataliia is trying to draw strength from the support of people in Cambridge, both friends and those who have been going to the daily Stand With Ukraine demonstrations in the city against the Russian invasion, which began last Thursday (February 24).

“It is terrifying,” said Nataliia. “I’m saying to friends who are asking how we are that, physically, we are here but all our thoughts are there, with our people, with all Ukrainians struggling in our native country.

“And being here, far away, I think it’s even harder. We’re trying to do everything possible to support them and raise awareness about this situation. We have been going to the demonstrations every day with our four children.

Nataliia Gubanova's mother Antonina working at a pharmacy in Kyiv. (55222247)
Nataliia Gubanova's mother Antonina working at a pharmacy in Kyiv. (55222247)

“Our children are asking: Mummy, are we going again today? But I think this is the minimum that we can do here in order to raise money and support Ukraine, or our families and friends and all Ukrainians. I think our nation is incredibly united. Our neighbours have been so kind. Yesterday, one turned up with a lasagne he had made because he wanted to care for us.”

Nataliia came to Cambridge 12 years ago and lives here with her husband, Vitalii Burnus, and children Emilina, 10, Miran, 7, Eric, 5 and Romeo, 10 months. She had hoped her parents would be able to come and join her in the UK but said the difficulty of getting a visa to come here made that hope impossible.

The bomb shelter in Kyiv where Nataliia Gubanova's parents, Antonina and Segii, are hiding. (55222245)
The bomb shelter in Kyiv where Nataliia Gubanova's parents, Antonina and Segii, are hiding. (55222245)

She added that in between the bombing, her parents were coming out of the shelter and that her mother had gone back to her work in a pharmacy.

“There are some quiet moments,” says Nataliia. “Today, my mum sent me a video. It is the first day of spring but in Kyiv it was snowing and Mum said that it was such a quiet morning. But people are now afraid of quietness, because after that quiet moment the shots could be here from the rockets and missiles.”

Nataliia Gubanova and her family (55222237)
Nataliia Gubanova and her family (55222237)

Dr Rory Finnin, who has been at the same demonstrations as Nataliia, has also spent all week contacting friends and loved ones in Ukraine following the horrific bombardment of the country by Russian forces.

The associate professor of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge, who lived in Ukraine and has studied the country for three decades, has been hearing from friends trying to decide whether to flee with their children and others who have taken shelter in metro stations during the bombing.

He explained that hopes were fading of helping people flee Ukraine to the UK because of our government’s position on refusing visas to all except those with close family here.

Dr Rory Finnin, associate professor of Ukrainian Studies at Cambridge University. Pic by MYKYTA ZAVILINSKYI (55222263)
Dr Rory Finnin, associate professor of Ukrainian Studies at Cambridge University. Pic by MYKYTA ZAVILINSKYI (55222263)

He said: “The one thing I'm rather ashamed of at the moment is the unconscionable unwillingness of the Home Office to lift restrictions on visas for Ukrainians, as Ireland has done, for instance, at the moment it's not even possible for Ukrainians to apply for a visa unless they have really close family connections here. So for our students who wish to come over, for scholars who wish to come over, who we want to support we can't even bring them here if we try. That's shameful. And so right now our university is trying to offer space and support for scholars and students who are displaced by this conflict. But until we solve the visa issue, we can't even do that.”

The worst thing that could happen, he explains, is if the West decides to “look away” and abandon Ukraine “because we'd be abandoning the principles of our international legal order which has kept the peace in Europe for decades”.

Ukraine protest King's College . Picture: Keith Heppell. (55166271)
Ukraine protest King's College . Picture: Keith Heppell. (55166271)

He added: “Russia is targeting a democratic state and people who are just like us, who simply want to go raise their kids, without fear of bribing police officials or judges, without fear that if they express a political view that's not in line with the state that they may be jailed. Basic things, basic human rights. They've just been standing up for them in peaceful ways. And this is the response that they've received.”

Meanwhile, Andrii Smytsniuk who is a Ukrainian language lecturer at the University of Cambridge is fearful for his parents’ safety. They have refused to leave their homeland, despite him begging them to come to the UK.

He said: “They have made their decision to stay. I am very much worried but in some ways I respect their decision.

Ukraine protest King's College . Picture: Keith Heppell. (55166255)
Ukraine protest King's College . Picture: Keith Heppell. (55166255)

“They don't want to go anywhere. They're willing to sacrifice their lives to stay where they were born. And it's very, very heroic, but also very tragic that now in the 21st century you have to risk your life just to be able to live in your own country because of a madman with a red button.

“People want to defend their country. I know at least one Cambridge undergraduate student who actually is from Kyiv and he has already left Cambridge to go to join what is called territorial defence which is a unit in Ukraine accepting volunteers.”



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More