‘There are Russian troops behind you’: Durham student and her cats escape Ukraine

By Waseem Mohamed

Alyona Fedulova, a third-year Collingwood student reading French and Arabic, was visiting her native Ukraine to sort out a work visa, receive a booster shot and visit her grandparents, whom she hadn’t seen for over a year.

She arrived in Kyiv on 23rd February, and described how hours later, “I could see the smoke and the scattering of orange from the window” of her apartment in Obolon: “it was very, very close to us”. The war had begun.

“It was very scary. The scariest part was hearing civilians trying to flee Kyiv and avoiding the debris from missiles, the missiles itself, thinking how can we even live with those memories? Most of the time we were running on adrenaline because we were just trying to leave the warzone — you just leave your emotions behind.”

“I could not imagine leaving the country without my cats.”

Alyona Fedulova

Along with her aunt and two younger cousins, Fedulova got into their car and started her escape. “We just left. We were fleeing, we didn’t know where we were going. As we were fleeing, we heard countries were welcoming refugees, there were no border restrictions and you could come with animals.”

Fedulova faced an additional challenge: she was determined to save her pet cat and new-born kittens. “They’re still drinking their mum’s milk, and my cat as well is so susceptible to stress … she was so dehydrated, and it affected her kidneys. It definitely made it challenging, but I could not imagine leaving the country without my cats. It was a hard decision to make”.

As Fedulova tried to leave Kyiv, scenes of long traffic jams were being shown on the news, as thousands aimed to leave at once. Fedulova was caught up in those queues. “The traffic was 40km long. You could get hit by debris from missiles or get shot, it’s a huge risk”.

Fedulova’s family spent the night in an underground bomb shelter, then packed everything and left.

In the bomb shelter, “everyone was pretty scared; every time I went upstairs for a connection to update my loved ones, I heard an explosion and the floor shook, and I just ran straight back down again.”

“I hope that Ukraine will win this war, and that we overcome this injustice. I really want to come back to my country”

Alyona fedulova

Alyona managed to get hold of her friends in Durham, who posted on social media to ask for help on her escape. People pulled through: “it was incredibly important because when you are driving … I had a very unstable internet connection so I really relied on my friends to find accommodation, to find people who could host us, they were also updating me on the waiting time at customs so they could tell me what direction I should be heading.”

Fedulova’s family eventually drove to the Moldovan border, driving through “forests and villages” to avoid using the main routes. She described seeing “aircraft in the distance, military vehicles, tanks, people standing at military checkpoints with guns, searching our cars.

“Once, we were driving past a military checkpoint and surprisingly didn’t get stopped and searched … they said, ‘there are Russian troops behind you’. That’s how close it was”.

At the border, Alyona got lucky. They waited at the last checkpoint for just an hour or so: others have had to wait for days. Her family now join the nearly two million refugees from Ukraine, staying in Romania’s capital, Bucharest.

“I hope that Ukraine will win this war”, says Alyona, “and that we overcome this injustice. I really want to come back to my country. I have so much pride in my friends who are still there volunteering and fighting.

“I fear for the world. I don’t think people understand that this is not just a Ukraine issue. Russia has bombed Ukrainian nuclear reactors; the environmental repercussion might impact all of Europe and Russia.

“I really hope one day, we can live in a peaceful world, because no child, no person, no animal, deserves to go through this. It doesn’t matter where, whatever region or country”.

Image Credit – Ukrainian President’s Office and Alyona Fedulova

One thought on “‘There are Russian troops behind you’: Durham student and her cats escape Ukraine

  • Putin is bringing in,Syrians in UKR

    What is the Putin plan here ?

    Using Arab Baathist fighters in UKR ?

    Using the Chechens and the Arabs as the front line – with Russian forces 10-15 kms behind – providing drone,ART and Missile cover – is the plan.


    The aim is TO PIT MUSLIMS AGAINST CHRISTIANS in UKR – and then,there are bound to be massacres,beheadings,body mutilations,sacrilege and killings – and that will start the war of Islam Vs Western Christianity (minus Russia),and also,combined with food shortages in GCC,force GCC not TO OFFSET THE OIL EMBARGO ON RUSSIA ! dindooohindoo

    The FACT is that the popular view in Arabia , is that the DESTRUCTION OF IRAQ and SYRIA, and the planned attack on Persia, is a conspiracy by the Christian WEST.THE TRUTH IS IRRELEVANT

    So there will be many Arabs who will fight for Russia against US proxies in UKR – and there will be several Muslims in the West and GCC,who will fight against Russia,in UKR.


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