Yuilya Kozrp (left) escaped Ukraine while under fire from Russian forces along with her teenaged daughter Viktoriia (right) before finally making it to Vancouver Island. (Submitted photo)

Harrowing personal story headlines Cowichan fundraiser for Ukrainian children

Ukrainian woman who escaped war with daughter to speak at event

A fundraiser to assist children in Ukraine impacted by the ongoing war in the European country will be held at Birds Eye Cove Farm in Maple Bay on Oct. 15.

The Child of War fundraiser is being sponsored by the Ukrainian Canadian Advocacy Group and will include an exhibit called War in Living Colour, a silent auction, live jazz music, cash bar and a dinner.

Tickets for the event, which begins at 4 p.m., are $125 each and donations will be accepted and appreciated.

Money raised at the event will go to rehabilitation programs for children impacted by the war in Ukraine who are in that country and across Europe.

RELATED STORY: UKRAINIAN REFUGEE FINDS HOME IN COWICHAN VALLEY

One of the biggest draws at the Child of War fundraiser is a first-hand account of the devastation of the war from Yuilya Kozrp who, along with her teenage daughter Viktoriia, escaped from Irpin, one of the first Ukrainian cities attacked by the Russians early in the conflict, and eventually made their way to safety in Sooke.

Yuilya described Irpin as a beautiful, green, modern city where many young families chose to live before she awoke to the sounds of explosions on Feb. 24 when the invasion began.

She said it was hard to believe.

“After all, we live in the 21st century, in a civilized world in a peaceful country in the centre of Europe,” Yuilya said.

She said she received phone calls from her boss and Viktoriia’s school telling them to stay at home that day, and for the foreseeable future, and then the family’s comfortable and happy lives really began to unravel.

“The explosions became more frequent that morning and there were already huge traffic jams on the roads,” Yuilya said.

“I thought we’d ride out the hype and leave later. Viktoriia and I quickly went to the grocery store and stocked up on drinking water. There was information that we need to be prepared for the fact that for some time, there may be no water, or light, or gas. I tried to cook meals as much as possible, to do the usual household chores.”

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Yuilya said the next morning, the government announced that everyone in the city should find the nearest places for shelter — like bomb shelters, basements and metro stations — and go there.

She said there was a clear understanding that leaving Irpin was no less dangerous than staying there.

Like many in Irpin, Yuilya and Viktoriia spent the next few days surviving in their basement along with other tenants as Russian troops continued to get closer to the city, destroying villages and settlements along the way.

“On March 3, evacuations for women and children were announced in Irpin, and people were being taken out by trains from the railway station,” Yuilya said.

“We lived far from the railway station and it took about an hour to walk there, but it was scary to walk under the sounds of shelling. We tried to find volunteers, ordinary people who could give us a lift by car to the railway station. However, they took out only old people, disabled people and small children who could not walk.”

Yuilya said that after a long night of intense shelling around her home, she and Viktoriia decided to try to make it to the train station.

RELATED STORY: HELPING DISPLACED UKRAINIAN FAMILIES FIND SAFE HAVEN IN THE EAST KOOTENAY

“We walked and constantly heard the sounds of explosions,” she said.

“When we arrived at the station, only women and children were allowed to go on the platform. Before my eyes was a terrible picture; women and children were crying and saying goodbye to their men. They parted for a while, but there were definitely families there who never saw each other again and never will see each other.”

The railway station was hit by shells while they were there and everyone scattered to find shelter.

Yuilya said a Good Samaritan stopped his car, which was full with his family, and offered to put them in his trunk and try to escape the city.

“We drove about 30 kilometres through a number of Ukrainian military checkpoints and were dropped off at a railway station in another city,” she said.

“It was unusual for us to see people just walking down the street; the ATMs worked and shops were open. Only some muffled explosions were heard from very, very far away.”

Yuilya said she and Viktoriia left the country and went to Lviv, then to Poland, Bulgaria and eventually to Vancouver Island.

She said she kept in touch with people in Irpin and learned that on the night they evacuated the city, Russian troops entered their residential complex and fired cannons at the apartments, robbed the shops, and broke everything in their path.

“Some of our people who remained in the basement went out to the Russians and talked with them,” she said.

“They did not touch them and told them to return to the basement. But at the same time, when a woman went out to walk her dog, they shot her.”

Yuilya said the Russians destroyed almost 70 per cent of the city`s housing and social infrastructure, and more than 4,000 families were left homeless.

“But the worst thing is that at least 300 civilians were brutally killed by the invaders and will never see their relatives, friends and their city again,” she said.

Tickets for the fundraiser on Oct. 15 can be purchased at childofwar2022@gmail.com using auto transfer, or contact msieffert77@gmail.com. Call 250-616-8896 for further information.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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