Balinese hoteliers welcome family of ex-Ukrainian employee seeking refuge from war
DENPASAR (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): Shocked and terrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Hanna Liubychenko and her two daughters fled to Poland in early March. Plagued by fear and anxiety, the family found at least temporary peace in Bali.
“Bali is a home for me,” the 36-year-old told the Jakarta Post on June 12, several weeks after the family arrived and just two days before they left Indonesia.
At least 7.3 million people fled Ukraine following the Russian invasion, more than half to Poland. An estimated 7 million Ukrainians have been displaced in the country, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Liubychenko’s family lived in Irpin, a small town just 15 minutes by car from the capital Kyiv. When the war broke out, Hanna and her daughters managed to leave the country, but her husband Dimitry had to stay behind because the Ukrainian government only allowed women, children and the elderly to evacuate.
The opportunity for the family to take refuge on the “island of the gods” presented itself in April, when a former employer contacted Dimitry.
Dimitry worked for three years as a chef at a restaurant in Nusa Dua owned by Balinese hotelier Ngurah Wijaya and his wife Ida Widowati Wijaya, who knew the couple before their marriage.
Hanna first came to Bali 15 years ago on holiday with Dimitry, and has visited the island several times since.
“When I heard about the war, I decided to contact him, offering him any help he and his family might need,” said Ida, who also offered to house his family at bali.
“When [Dimitry] says his wife and children [come] in Bali, I warmly welcomed them,” she added.
Hanna was quick to accept the offer.
“I decided to run away [to] Bali because I have family here. Ibu Ida [asked] that we come to Bali. It’s a bit like home,” she said in broken English. Hanna and her two daughters arrived in Bali in mid-April, accompanied by a sister and her baby, and stayed with the Wijayas.
At first, it was not easy for Liubychenko and his family to escape the dark shadow of war. Ida said the sound of an airplane was enough to cause distress for Hanna and her daughters.
“It reminded them of the Russian military aircraft attack,” Ida said.
During the first weeks of their stay, Ida often saw the family crying. She also noticed that they had no appetite.
“Children [were] cry, I [was] tears. It was a lot of mixed feelings,” Hanna recalled. Ida also thought getting used to Bali’s tropical climate compared to Ukraine’s cold weather might have been a problem.
However, after several weeks in Bali, the Ukrainian refugee family began to settle.
“I feel a bit better, but I also miss home, I miss my husband, my family, my friends,” Hanna said, adding that she was grateful to Ida and the local community for embracing her family. .
Since Ida and her husband’s hospitality business was hit hard by the pandemic, they’ve gathered their many friends to help support Hanna and her daughters. “I feel lucky to have lots of kind friends who are willing to help out,” Ida said.
Unfortunately, Indonesian immigration policy only granted a two-month visa to Hanna and her daughters, who had to leave Bali by June 14.
Ida and her friends then collected money to pay for their flight to Poland on June 8. But an unforeseen complication arose in their travel plans. The airline the family had booked with said Hanna could not enter Poland because she did not have a biometric passport.
Instead, her daughters could fly with Hanna’s sister as guardian, along with the sister’s baby.
Hanna does not have a Schengen visa, which allows entry to 26 countries of the European Union, so she first had to travel to Ukraine and then enter Poland from there.
Once again, Ida and her friends raised money to buy another ticket to Ukraine via Turkey and then Moldova, which left on June 12.
While she was afraid to travel through Ukraine, Hanna had no other choice. “I [must]. My daughters [are] in Poland, waiting for me,” she said.
Although her stay was brief, Hanna was grateful to have had the chance to find refuge in Bali. “I am happy to have Ibu Ida and many friends from Bali who have supported me and my family. I hope I can come back to Bali next time when everything is fine for vacation,” he said. she stated.