Ukrainian tells of hard journey to border after waking to sound ‘like bombing’

‘We don’t want (Putin) and we don’t want his style,’ Halyna Wright, from Odesa, said of the conflict.

01 March 2022

A woman who fled Odesa with her nine-year-old son has told of the “terrible” journey to the Polish border after waking to sounds “like bombing” last week.

Halyna Wright, 39, lives in Odesa, Ukraine, as an assistant teacher at South Ukrainian National Pedagogical University, but headed for the border when the Russian invasion began on Thursday.

After arriving in Wroclaw, south-west Poland on Sunday, Mrs Wright now awaits the outcome of their visa applications as she and her son hope to fly to the UK on Wednesday to reunite with her British husband.

Mrs Wright told the PA news agency that she woke at 5am when Russia invaded.

“It was a very strong noise, like bombing, two times,” she explained.

Halyna and Mark Wright
Halyna Wright met Briton Mark Wright in Odesa in 2018 and the pair were married a year later (Halyna Wright/PA)

“I called my brother straight away because he works in the military and I asked him, ‘what is this?’ and he said ‘the war has started’.

“I said, ‘are you joking?’ and he said ‘no, it’s really happening’ – I couldn’t believe it… from that moment, I didn’t sleep.”

Mrs Wright and her nine-year-old son, Kyrylo, made their way to to Lviv, western Ukraine, by train, before continuing the journey by car from there and doing the last 12 miles on foot.

“It was very hard and it’s still winter – there was snow,” she said of the walk to the border.

“There were mothers with children, one, two years old – some of them even less than one… it was just terrible.

“While we walked, we saw so many times people left their baggage… they were so tired, they didn’t have the energy, so just left it.”

Mrs Wright said the Russian invasion felt “like a dream” to many Ukrainians.

Halyna Wright
Halyna Wright described the journey to the Polish border as ‘terrible’ (Halyna Wright/PA)

“We didn’t believe until the end that (Putin) would do it,” Mrs Wright said.

“Everyone was shocked – the next few days people were on their phones, watching the news all the time, trying to understand what was going on.

“For many people, it was like a dream… they say, ‘I don’t believe it’s happening, I don’t believe it’s real’.”

She said she believes Russian president Vladimir Putin does not want Ukraine to “continue their European way of life”, as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has today applied for Ukraine to join the 27-nation European Union.

“(Putin) is living in the 16th century,” she said.

“We don’t want the Russian way of control – of no honesty, we don’t want him and we don’t want his style.”

Mrs Wright also praised the Ukrainian army and how the country has come together.

Mark Wright and Kyrylo
Halyna Wright and her son are hoping their visas will be approved in time to fly to the UK on Wednesday, where they will meet Mr Wright (Halyna Wright/PA)

“The war, of course it’s bad, but how our country is changing now – it’s amazing,” she said.

“For example, in the west people speak more Ukrainian and in the east, Russian, but now all people are together… it doesn’t matter what language you talk.

“We’re all together, we support each other, and we are so proud of our army.”

Mrs Wright and her son will now travel to the Polish capital of Warsaw to submit documents to the UK’s visa application centre.

Her husband, Mark, is currently living in Basildon, Essex, but hopes his family’s visas will be approved as they are due to fly from Poland to the UK on Wednesday.

The pair met in 2018 in Odesa, Ukraine, marrying a year later – and have regularly visited each other in both the UK and Ukraine for the last four years.

Mr Wright, 45, is also stepfather to Mrs Wright’s son, Kyrylo.

Mr Wright said he has had “three, four, five days of pure anger” after Home Secretary Priti Patel ruled out a visa waiver for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

He added the war is “disgusting” and “horrendous”.

“It’s an absolutely terrible war,” he said.

“These young Russian guys, they were just told, ‘Right, you go to war,’ and that’s probably why they are losing – their heart isn’t in it.

“At the end of the day, the smaller guy with more heart will always win (over) the bigger guy whose heart isn’t in it.”

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