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Ukrainian refugee leaves life behind, reflects on new life in Colorado Springs

Ukrainian refugee leaves life behind, reflects on new life in Colorado Springs
Posted at 8:59 PM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-20 22:59:28-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — February 24th will mark one year since the war in Ukraine began. Since then, nearly eight million refugees have left Ukraine to get safety and shelter in other countries. One refugee came to Colorado Springs and spoke to News5 about the life she left behind in Kyiv and the new life she’s living here.

When Valentyna Fesenko left Kyiv, she put three things in her bag in along with bread and water. She brought her passport, a t-shirt with a logo of the Ukraine national football team, and candles.

She knew she had to leave her home country when she no longer felt safe. Her city was under attack, she saw armed soldiers and military equipment on paths she used to walk everyday without interruption.

“I walked down the street and saw tanks that just passed by me, real big tanks, they were Ukrainian tanks, but I know the purpose of these tanks,” said Fesenko. “It was not normal, and maybe I wasn’t strong enough.”

When the war began, she slept in places other than her bed to avoid Russian attacks. She thought the war would end in a matter of days or weeks, but that wasn’t the case.

“I spent a couple nights in the subway, it was very cold, it was February and I was so exhausted,” said Fesenko.

Shortly the war began, she took a train to Poland. She added that the ride was packed with kids, women and pets. She said usually the trip would take about four hours, but this trip took 28 hours. She stood the whole time, without sitting or laying down.

Next, she made her way to Spain, then Mexico, San Diego, and eventually Colorado Springs, which became her new home away from home. She described her new home as beautiful with friendly, supportive people and great scenery.

“There are lot of Ukrainians here who are willing to help and support, so I’m very appreciative that I feel like this is home in some way, because of these people and this area,” said Fesenko.

But she said weeks like this bring back memories for her. A few days before the war began, she hung out with her friends and said she had one of the best nights of her life. She said now, many of her friends have also left Ukraine, but her family is still there. They likely won’t be there much longer though because of safety concerns.

“I always have these flashbacks about this week, but one year later,” said Fesenko. “I miss my home, I miss it so much. But every day, there are less things that I can go back to.”

Many refugees like her miss home every day, but don't feel safe or comfortable returning to their home just yet.

Now nearly one year later, it hasn't gotten any easier. But she said it's important to remain hopeful for a better future for her country.

“It’s very hard to see the end, when the end will be of this war. But everybody still has hope. It's what really inspires me the most. People are tired of war of course, but they're full of hope,” said Fesenko, who added that everything happens for a reason.

“When things like war happen, it’s told me not to plan much in life, not to think that I can control everything, that I can be in charge of my life,” she added. “Just live and appreciate everything little, tiny moments.”

Fesenko is a journalist, and said, even she can't find the right words to describe her experience and what's happening in Ukraine. Like many others, she said her future of going home or staying in the United States, is uncertain.

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