A painful decision – my son stayed in Ukraine

Romani-äiti istuu sängyn laidalla hätämajoituksessa.

Julietta sits on a mattress on the floor of the emergency accommodation. But there’s a hint of worry in the eyes of this calm, chatty 32-year-old mother. Two of her children are safely with her, but her 13-year-old son was not allowed across the border. He stayed in Ukraine with his father.

After the war broke out and getting food became difficult, Julietta and her husband decided that their children must be kept safe in one way or another. Although the war is not yet seen in their home village, the parents did not want the children to live in an environment of air-raid sirens and fear. After discussing it, they decided that the family would flee to Hungary. The whole family headed for the border.

Despair at the border

Crossing the border wasn’t easy. When they left Ukraine, the family had to show their passports. Not all Roma have passports, but everyone in Julietta’s family had some kind of id papers with them. They handed over their documents, but the guards didn’t think the boy was only 13 years old. The tall teenage boy looked older to the guards, so he was not allowed to cross the border.

I can’t do this anymore but want to stay at home.

Both parents tried to talk to the workers in Russian, but there were a lot of people at the border. The border guards were too busy and couldn’t give them a hearing. The whole family turned back towards home.

– I said, I can’t do this anymore but want to stay at home, Julietta says.

But the family’s father was of the firm opinion that at least the mother and daughters must flee. He’d stay with their son in Ukraine.

– My husband asked me to save our daughters and leave, Julietta says quietly.

A new attempt

Together, the whole family returned to the border, but only the mother and her daughters crossed the border.

– I wanted to go back. It felt painful to leave my own son in the middle of the war, Julietta sighs, her eyes wet with tears.

The family’s plan to flee to safety together was crushed. Julietta’s husband is Hungarian, so he can cross the border. But until the boy is safely brought to Hungary, the father is not coming either.

I wanted to go back. It felt painful to leave your own son in the middle of a war.

Julietta and her daughters are grateful for the security and help they have received from the Hungarians. On the Ukrainian side, many have tried to help the family and it now looks like the boy will be able to cross the border.

The future is open

Julietta says she’s praying for peace. The most important thing for her right now is that the war would end, and the family could be happily together again.

– I just want to see my family again, says Julietta.

Returning to Ukraine is on everyone’s mind. Julietta would like to start life again with their family in Ukraine, since she can only picture herself as working in Ukraine.

– For now, we still have a home to go back to. My husband is taking care of the house and there are no soldiers or bombings in that area yet.

Contacts with home are by phone and online. Her son’s possible crossing the border brings a glimmer of hope to Julietta’s eyes, as relief and worry begin to slack off.


Julietta and her family have since moved to Slovakia, but their son is still in the Ukraine. The Ukrainians’ distress is still very real. You can help by donating.