By Sharon T. Markey
October 19, 2022

Today we met Andriy when he came to our apartment to get a can of sweetened condensed milk for his children. It’s a popular treat in Ukraine but very hard to find in Hungary. We recently got some from Ukraine and posted an announcement about it on a chat group for Ukrainian parents in Budapest. Within an hour, all 20 cans were spoken for, and Andriy was the first person to come claim one, which we were selling at cost.

Andriy is the father of a family from the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of the two break-away republics in Eastern Ukraine that had been the site of fighting between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army since 2014. Though Andriy and his family were pro-Ukraine, they chose to remain in their city after it became part of the DPR because it was their home. Prior to the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, the family was coming under increasing pressure to relinquish their Ukrainian passports and get DPR documents, but they decided that, if it came down to it, they would leave the DPR before ever giving in.

After the Russian army occupied their city in February 2022, Andriy, his wife, and their two children (ages 6 and 7) hid in their home for three months. They finally managed to escape through Russia. Andriy was smuggled into Russia to avoid being taken by the occupiers. Once in Russia, the family made their way to the Latvian border and then continued on to Hungary, where Andriy’s sister had been living for several years. Andriy found a job, and the family is trying to rebuild their life. They don’t know if they will ever see their home again, but they are grateful to be together and to be safe.