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Ukrainian who fled to South Africa recalls traumatic journey: ‘It was a real battle for survival’

  • It is estimated that more than one million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded it.
  • A Ukrainian woman who fled to South Africa on Friday says it was unbearable to see peaceful civilians and children dying in the war.
  • Valentyna Nazarova, 68, was detained for five hours at Cape Town International Airport on Friday because she did not have a South African visa due to unrest in Ukraine.

Constant fear, flying missiles, sirens and the death of civilians – including innocent children – are some of the realities a 68-year-old Ukrainian woman who fled to South Africa on Friday said she could not bear to watch.

Since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, it is estimated that more than a million people have fled the country to neighboring countries such as Poland, Romania and Hungary.

Valentyna Nazarova, 68, is one of them, but she left the continent to take refuge in South Africa.

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She landed at Cape Town International Airport around 3:00 p.m. Friday after an 11-hour flight from Romania.

Nazarova fled the Ukrainian town of Rivne on February 27, three days after the war began.

Valentina Nazarov.

She knew it was really time to move on when a missile hit the city’s airport.

“After that, the air raid siren went on and off regularly. The order to take cover was constantly sounding on the radio…unfortunately, where I lived, the underground shelter was very far away “, she said.

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A Good Samaritan volunteered to drive her and others to the western part of Ukraine, to the city of Chernivtsy.

She said that after a very long drive, due to roadblocks that caused delays of up to seven hours, the group arrived very late at night.

Because of the curfew, her friend couldn’t pick her up from the station until the next morning, so she spent the night in a hospice.

The next morning, Nazarova finally got a lift at the Romanian border.

Ukrainian refugees rest upon arrival in

Ukrainian refugees rest upon arrival at Berlin’s main train station.

“Crossing the border was not complicated because they allowed to pass by only showing a passport. Hundreds of women and children crossed with us. On the Romanian side, the volunteers were extremely helpful and kindly helped everyone.Our friends from a local Christian mission there helped with accommodation.

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She called the situation in Ukraine heartbreaking.

“It’s a real battle of survival, tragic deaths of peaceful civilians, innocent children… The sound of flying missiles, constant sirens, terror, fear. Homes lost, towns and villages destroyed, hospitals, universities, schools, churches… All that is unbearable to see, but unfortunately it is the reality of our beautiful peaceful Ukraine today!

“I wish no one ever goes through this pain and turmoil,” she added.

Nazarova is a retired engineer and barter specialist.

Her trip was not smooth as when she arrived at Cape Town International Airport on Friday she was detained and interrogated for five hours because she did not have a South African visa due to the troubles in his country.


Her distraught South African-based daughter says her mother was treated like a criminal and South African immigration officials didn’t even offer water to take her heart medication.

She said she had never experienced such cruelty, especially towards an elderly person.

Nazarova described her long trip as “really traumatic, unpleasant and very sad”.

The businesswoman’s daughter, who asked not to be named, said she had to constantly explain to immigration officials that Nazarova could not return to her country to obtain a visa because of the conflict.

“Luckily I was there to help with the translation as her English is poor. My mother, almost 70 years old, an asylum seeker in South Africa, was received here and treated almost like a criminal,” said she declared.

She added that officials spent nearly five hours questioning and interviewing her mother.

“She has a heart condition and needed to take medicine, unfortunately she was not even offered water during this whole time. I was escorted out by the Migration Police office to go buy her some water,” she said.

Immigration officials issued him an asylum permit valid for five days.

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“On Wednesday we have to take her back to the airport for further paperwork to be completed. Then we [will] know the next steps,” the girl said.

She added: “I understand that certain procedures must be followed to obtain refugee status for anyone, it’s the law. It’s not a problem, but the problem is that humanity and simple respect and consideration of the trauma is not appropriate. the procedures of our officials, that is the main thing. ”

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) declined to comment, saying the matter fell under the home affairs function.

Home affairs spokesman Siya Qoza promised to answer our questions.

His answer will be added once received.

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) spokesperson Gopolang Peme also posed questions to Home Affairs.

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