Galina used to live in Donetsk and speaks Russian, and Volodimir is a Ukrainian from Kyiv – they arrived in Hungary together

March 08. 2022. – 02:49 PM

Galina used to live in Donetsk and speaks Russian, and Volodimir is a Ukrainian from Kyiv – they arrived in Hungary together
Galina and Volodimir getting warm on a bus at Nyugati train station in Budapest on 7 March 2022. Photo: Melegh Noémi Napsugár / Telex


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Translation by Andrea Horváth Kávai

“We came from Kyiv. We left 2 days ago. When we left, the window of our house had already been broken in by a nearby explosion. It took us two days to get here by train. There were thirteen of us in a cabin made for six. In complete darkness. But at least we got to sit in a cabin. Many people had to stand in the hallway, and some had to stand the whole way.”

- this is what Galina and Volodimir told us when we met them at Nyugati (Western) train station in Budapest. It is impossible to quote them separately. Not just because they often finished each other’s sentences with the utmost kindness, but also since in the abscence of a common language, a man working as a volunteer interpreter at the train station was translating for us. His summary did not tell us which sentence came from whom.

Volodimir and Galina arrived in Budapest from Ukraine on Monday. At the station, volunteers were helping them find temporary accommodation in the city. We talked on an out-of-service bus while they were waiting for the arrival of the man who offered them his home.

Since the train station is currently being renovated, there is no functioning waiting room, so for lack of a better solution in this wintry early-March weather, there are buses lined up next to the station with their engines running. Here the refugees arriving from the border can get warmed up before they go any further. The couple didn’t know yet whether they would remain in Hungary long term, or go to the Czech Republic or Austria – as they have friends in both places.

This is not the first time Galina has had to start her life over in a new place. Seven years ago, she was living in Donetsk and was forced to flee from the war there. At the time, she only went as far as Kyiv – which is where she met Volodimir. The man introduced himself to us as a chess grandmaster, and Galina said she is employed in a bank, but due to Covid has been working from home for the past year. She said she hopes to continue doing this from Hungary too, for as long as possible – so she was hoping to have internet access at their accomodation.

I had been talking with them for a while when the interpreter remarked on the side that while Galina is constantly speaking in Russian, Volodimir keeps aswering in Ukrainian. When I found this surprising, they said that it is natural for them, they don’t even notice it, and then added:

“Here we are as an example: we love each other both in Russian and in Ukrainian!”