Our homes have been destroyed, but we are the lucky ones who escaped the war in Ukraine

As a powerful motorbike roars down a busy street, Ukrainian mum of two, Tatiana Lytvy, pulls her two young sons close to her as they tremble in fear.

It’s been a year since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion and managed to escape to neighboring Romania, but she and Myroslav, eight, and Denys, three, are still scarred by the rocket attacks they were forced from to run.


Tatiana Lytvy and sons Myroslav and Denys settled in Romania after fleeing UkraineCredit: John Owens/Save the Children
Nadiia Pavlenko cares for autistic daughter Malia in Bucharest after her home was destroyed in Ukraine


Nadiia Pavlenko cares for autistic daughter Malia in Bucharest after her home was destroyed in UkraineCredit: John Owens/Save the Children

Tatiana, 32, was able to settle in Romania thanks to charitable donations from Britons, who raised £400m, making the UK the world’s biggest donor to Ukrainian charity.

At Save The Children’s busy day center in the capital Bucharest, the Sun met her and other mums on Sunday who had to leave their husbands behind to find safety for their young families.

Tatiana said: “It was too dangerous to stay in our house there.

“It was under Russian control within weeks of the invasion.

“A rocket hit my sister’s apartment and there were huge bomb craters everywhere. The buildings were leveled.

“Sometimes there were about 15 bombings a day.

“We’d go back up to the apartment to get food and blankets and then run back underground.”

She and her sons live in a tiny flat and have received vouchers for essentials such as food and clothing provided by Save The Children from money donated to the UK appeal.

Like many of the female refugees from Ukraine in Romania, Tatiana’s husband Andriy, 34, is helping the war effort back home, in his case repairing power plants to keep the country running.

Tatiana also has a major new role.

In Hariv he worked as a prison guard, but in Bucharest he volunteers, teaching Ukrainian to young refugees at the nearby School 73.

Although the Ukrainian curriculum lessons are delivered online by their own government, many of the children have begun to speak Romanian.

Indira Kvit is in Bucharest with daughter Zina while her husband Oleksandr is fighting on the front lines in Donbas


Indira Kvit is in Bucharest with daughter Zina while her husband Oleksandr is fighting on the front lines in DonbasCredit: John Owens/Save the Children

He said: “I am so grateful to the generous people in your country who have given money to help us.

“It was such a huge help. Even though we are safe here, and can get by, I can’t wait for the war to be over so we can go back to our country.

“The places around our home are destroyed, but I will be there to rebuild our country. I know that those of us who survived are the lucky ones.”

Tatiana is one of the three million who have already entered Romania.

Almost all of them are women and children because men between the ages of 18 and 60 are barred from leaving under martial law.

The emergency appeal organized by the Disasters Emergency Committee for 15 major charities – including the British Red Cross and Oxfam – broke records.

It also enabled Save The Children to provide childcare for mums so they could go to work and Romanian lessons to help them find work.

And they provide young refugees with important advice and provide safe facilities in which they can play and learn.

Among them is the eight-year-old Malia Pavlenko.

Her mum Nadiia, 30, tells how Malia has autism and misses their home in bombed-out Mykolaiv so much that little Anushka’s grandmother gives her regular video tours of her old bedroom via WhatsApp calls.

Nadiia told us: “My mother stayed because she is being treated for cancer which means she can’t move. My grandmother, who is 86, is also there and they live in our house.

“My mother lived in a ten-story apartment building and it was destroyed by two rockets.

“He calls Malia to reassure her. Malia’s autism means she needs everything to be in its place and now she wants to see that her favorite toys are still there in her drawer.

“Before we never left home much and traveled only in our own car.

“We resisted leaving as much as possible.

“But there was shelling every day for eight months. Now when he sees a plane here, he asks me “Is it going to shoot us?”

“We resisted until we watched them land right in front of our building at four in the morning.

“I couldn’t believe that the Russian tanks were actually there in front of us – in the 21st century, I would never have believed that. I only took two bags with us.

“In Mykolayiv they don’t have running water, electricity and heating.

“The people here in Romania have been so kind to us from the beginning. We are lucky. It’s so kind, but we want our own lives again.”

Gwen Hines, chief executive of the charity, says refugees are being “blown away” by the generosity of the British public.

He said: “The needs are huge. it is the largest movement of people since World War II.

“They don’t want to be refugees, they miss them, but they also want to make the best life for their children here.”

Indira Kvit, 25, works for the charity to help new arrivals get used to their new surroundings.

But she admits she has spent every day of the past 12 months dreading receiving the news that her husband Oleksandr, 26, had been killed and having to break the news to their six-year-old Zina.

She told the Sun on Sunday: “Before, everything was pretty quiet and I had a good job as a pharmacy manager.

“My husband also had a good job and we had a nice apartment.

“Our daughter was in a nice preschool. I had everything I could have. It was a perfect life indeed.

“I woke up at 5 am on February 24 last year to the explosion of rockets that destroyed military installations in Odessa.

“Olexandr told me I had to go with our daughter because it was too dangerous.

“The decision was made to protect her more than anything else.

“We talk on the phone every day and he’s always very positive about the future.

“All I know is that he is somewhere on the front line in Donbass; he is not allowed to tell me where he is.”

But earlier this month she got to see him – just for a few moments.

In an unexpected romantic surprise, he surprised her by going to the border last week to see her, knowing she was heading there to drop off supplies for family members still in Odessa.

He took a few days off from the resistance campaign in the Donbas region to give her a kiss just before Valentine’s Day.

She said: “When I saw him at the border, it was so emotional, we were both in tears.

“I’m not telling Xena that she’s at war. I’m just saying that dad is away for work.

“He has adapted so quickly. In September last year he was speaking Romanian with the other children, much better than me.

“My dream is that we can both come home.”

There are still up to 10,000 Ukrainians heading to Romania every day with an uncertain future.

Most arrive at the North Bucharest railway station.

Olena Kravchenko and her daughter Marina are being helped by Save The Children


Olena Kravchenko and her daughter Marina are being helped by Save The ChildrenCredit: John Owens/Save the Children

There this week, Olena Kravchenko, 31, and her daughter Marina, two, headed to a special child-friendly area to meet representatives from Save The Children.

On the wall of the station is a reminder of the daily dangers she and other victims of war face. a sign in Ukrainian warns that they are being approached by people posing as police in fake uniforms.

It follows reports of human traffickers grabbing them.

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But Olena said, “It’s safer here. We are staying here until the war is over.

“It was very dangerous. That’s why I’m so grateful to Save The Children. When we got here we had nobody.”