Charlotte refugee speaks out on crisis in Ukraine

CHARLOTTE, NC (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — In six months, a lot can change.

For Oleksandra Ustinova, the change has been profound in ways that many people cannot imagine.

“Everything is very different from what we have in Ukraine,” she said.

Ustinova comes from Ukraine and grew up in Kyiv. Her family and many friends are still in the country, but Ustinova recently applied for refugee status in the United States.

For two months, she has been living in Charlotte.

“For most Ukrainians, the most tragic day was February 24,” she said. “I woke up at 5 a.m. because I heard sounds of explosions. It was really scary, and like many others, I couldn’t believe it at first. The first two months were really scary.

She said the effort to get out was a daily chore. Tickets out of Ukraine often sold out in less than a minute, and the trip to the United States took three days.

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In North Carolina, life is different.

It may be quieter, but she said she couldn’t and wouldn’t escape the images that come out of her home country daily.

“It’s really painful for me to see the news every day because I still have my family there, my friends there and my hometown. Sometimes I really want to cry,” a- she declared.

Ustinova noted the continued attacks in southern Ukraine.

“People, unfortunately, are getting used to the sound of explosions and overhead sirens,” she said. “The scariest thing is that schools start again on September 1 and little children have to risk their lives to go to school.”

Ustinova’s immediate future includes life in the United States, including plans to go to college.

“I really hope the war is a temporary situation and will end soon, but I really want to establish my life here. It’s a whole new chapter,” she said.


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Plans include a possible return to Ukraine.

Although she is not there physically, her heart is. She said she spoke with her parents daily and would keep tabs on where she called home as the war continued.

Christi C. Elwood