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Ira fled from war to paradise – just wants to go home

Bombs fell only a few miles from her home in Pylypovychy, Ukraine. The children threw themselves on the ground and covered their ears. Nex day the family decided to flee.
Knislinge • Publicerad 6 maj 2022
Iryna ”Ira” Nikitina fled from the war in Ukraine and lives now in Knislinge with her two sons Nikita and Illya.
Iryna ”Ira” Nikitina fled from the war in Ukraine and lives now in Knislinge with her two sons Nikita and Illya.Foto: Simon Rehnström

Life was good in Ukraine. Good job, nice house, the children liked going to school and played football in their spare time. On the morning of 24th February everything changed for Iryna ”Ira” Nikitina, 37, and her family.

Two months later Ira and her two children Nikita and Illya, along with Ira's brother's wife Maria and her two children Danyiil, aged 8, and Davyd, 6, are living in a flat in Knislinge. The flat has a good standard, with a fine view across the river.

”We thought we would stay for two or three weeks at the most. I thought the war would be over”
Ira Nikitina
Iryna ”Ira” Nikitina and her two sons Nikita and Illya outside the flat in Knislinge.
Iryna ”Ira” Nikitina and her two sons Nikita and Illya outside the flat in Knislinge.Foto: Simon Rehnström
Ira, who has only had her driving licence for six months, had to drive the family's car with the two adults and four children, from the Polish border to the ferry in Gdynia. It took two days.
Ira, who has only had her driving licence for six months, had to drive the family's car with the two adults and four children, from the Polish border to the ferry in Gdynia. It took two days.Foto: Simon Rehnström
Nikita arranges his football cards on his bed. His favourite player is Karim Benzema from France, star player in Real Madrid.
Nikita arranges his football cards on his bed. His favourite player is Karim Benzema from France, star player in Real Madrid.Foto: Simon Rehnström
Football is what is most important in the children's daily lives at the moment. They have started at a football school in Knislinge.
Football is what is most important in the children's daily lives at the moment. They have started at a football school in Knislinge.Foto: Simon Rehnström

Nikita, 14, and Illya, 12, have started in the football school in Knislinge, in a few days they will start in the Swedish school in Sibbhult.

Under normal circumstances Ira would have loved to be here with her children, on holiday. She speaks good Swedish, she was at the Tjernobyl camp for the first time when she was twelve, and has been a guest several times in Swedish families, where she has lived and even gone to school in Broby.

Her feelings for Sweden and Broby are rooted deep in her heart.

Ira can carry on working from Sweden in her job with an IT firm. She spends eight hours a day at her computer.

Ira and her sons live in one room, they share a flat with three relatives with whom they fled.
Ira and her sons live in one room, they share a flat with three relatives with whom they fled.Foto: Simon Rehnström
Nikita misses everything from home. ”Most of all my dad”,  he says.
Nikita misses everything from home. ”Most of all my dad”, he says.Foto: Simon Rehnström
Ira Nikitina has twice been on TV4's  morning programme and talked live about the war in Ukraine. Once in Sweden she and Rolf Tillman were on the programme live. ”I knew the questions in advance, but I had to struggle to hold back my tears”, she says.
Ira Nikitina has twice been on TV4's morning programme and talked live about the war in Ukraine. Once in Sweden she and Rolf Tillman were on the programme live. ”I knew the questions in advance, but I had to struggle to hold back my tears”, she says.Foto: Simon Rehnström

In Ukraine I was quite well-paid, but not here, she says, worried about how she and her children will manage.

The Tjernobyl committee gives some help. The family has not applied for asylum.

– We thought we would stay for two or three weeks at the most. I thought the war would be over, says Ira.

What made you decide to flee?

– Yakiv, my husband, woke me up at half past five in the morning. It's very hard to describe. They were bombing Kiev, we could heat it. What can you do? Which way is best?, says Ira.

– Next day they bombed just 15 kilometres away from where we lived, and later in Borodyanka, just a few kilometres away.

The family made its way to Vyry, where they have relatives, further west, 300 kilometres from Kiev. Her husband Yakiv, went back to his village to work as a volunteer for the Christian congregation where they are active.

”We saw it from the window. The children said they couldn't sleep”
Ira Niktitina
Nikita and Illya miss their dad, the cats, football and their friends from back home.
Nikita and Illya miss their dad, the cats, football and their friends from back home.Foto: Simon Rehnström

Yakiv is a chiropractor. The clinic where he works is closed.

– Our house is still standing, Yakiv is sometimes there and sees to it, says Ira.

Yakiv and Ira's younger brother Andrii drive out with food and medicine. They have contact every day. While Kb Mosaik's reporter is there she gets a live call, with a film from what used to be a fine mall with a hairdresser, offices and shops. The walls are still standing, inside there is nothing left standing.

– Yakiv phones me sometimes, it can happen that the whole village has no water or electricity. Of the 14,000 who used to live in Pylypovychy there are perhaps about a third left.

Ira, who has only had her driving licence for six months, had to drive the family's car with the two adults and four children, from the Polish border to the ferry in Gdynia. It took two days.

All Nikita and Illya brought with them when they fled was their football boots. In a few days they will start school. ”That's good, it's hard just being at home”, says their mother Ira.
All Nikita and Illya brought with them when they fled was their football boots. In a few days they will start school. ”That's good, it's hard just being at home”, says their mother Ira.Foto: Simon Rehnström
”When I used to come to Sweden I was happy, I had friends here. Now it's a different story, it's like another country”
Ira Nikitina

What were you thinking?

– You don't think, you just get on with it. When we were staying with my relatives they started bombing again, we saw it from the window. The children said they couldn't sleep.

There and then we decided to go to Sweden, to the Tjernobyl committee.

Ira took warm clothes with her. The boys took was their football boots.

– I miss everything. I miss the cats, most of all I miss my dad, says Nikita, who is busy laying out pictures of football stars on his bed.

Ira Nikitina tries to follow the recipe for the Ukrainian bread palyanytcya. Her son Nikita looks on over her shoulder.
Ira Nikitina tries to follow the recipe for the Ukrainian bread palyanytcya. Her son Nikita looks on over her shoulder.Foto: Simon Rehnström

Ira can get a job here in Sweden.

– As far as I'm concerned it's not hard to find a job here, but I want to go back, and that's what I'll do. So I still want to have my job. What I can do is find an extra job, says Ira, whose blue eyes have an expression of sadness even when she is laughing.

Her sons no longer react when they hear the sound of aeroplanes, they sleep soundly at night. But all they want is to go home.

– I want to go back now. My husband says we must wait until after 9th May, when the Russians celebrate their victory in the Second World War.

– When I used to come to Sweden I was happy, I had friends here. Now it's a different story, it's like another country.

Because you were compelled to come here?

– Yes, I didn't want to leave.

Inga-Lill BengtssonSkicka e-post
Så här jobbar Mosaik Kristianstadsbladet med journalistik. Uppgifter som publiceras ska vara korrekta och relevanta. Vi strävar efter förstahandskällor och att vara på plats där det händer. Trovärdighet och opartiskhet är centrala värden för vår nyhetsjournalistik.