Anastasia, Kristina, mother Iryana and Margarita outside the Bulletin offices in Palma this week. | Humphrey Carter


The last time Kristina, her sisters Margarita, Anastasia and their mother Iryna were all together was November 11, 2018, celebrating Margarita’s birthday in their home town of Melitopol, one of the first Ukrainian cities to have been occupied by the Russians within hours of the invasion.
Last Saturday, they were finally all reunited in Mallorca.

24-year-old Kristina, who spoke to the Bulletin two weeks ago, left Ukraine four years ago because ever since Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in February 2014, tension began to mount and it was clear that something bigger was going to happen.
However, Russia made its move later than expected and Kristina had to start a new life on her own in Barcelona before moving to Mallorca last year.
And, since February 24 has been living through hell.

However, just over two weeks ago her 19-year-old sister Margarita arrived in Palma after a five-day journey from Dnipro where she was working in order to try and help the family’s finances back in Melitopol, nearly 300 kilometres away.
Then last weekend, mother Iryana and 15-year-old Anastasia, the youngest of the three sisters, landed in Palma after having managed to escape Russian occupied Melitopol in a humanitarian convoy, but they were extremely lucky.

“Our convoy was not attacked, although we went through over ten Russian check points. But the next day, the humanitarian convoy did not make it, it was attacked by Russian troops,” Iryana said.
“It’s a miracle, had they left it another 24 hours, they probably would not be here,” said Kristina. The family are now split between two apartments in Palma but they see each other everyday and talk as much as possible by phone.

They have had a celebratory lunch but they are saving the big party for when the Russians are finally defeated, they are all convinced that Ukraine will win and Russia will be defeated without control of any of Ukraine.

All of the three fled through Poland but at times were never too sure where they were until they got to Warsaw and onward travel became much clearer.
“We cannot thank the people of Europe for all of their help and here in Spain and Mallorca we have been made to feel so welcome while the aid which is being sent is so important. We can not thank the local people enough,” they said.
But, they feel a little let down by European governments and NATO.

Margarita managed to flee just before the bombs began to rain down on Dnipro, but the bombs started falling on her mother and youngster sister within hours of the invasion - the Russian flags were flying over their city within six hours.
“We spent the first ten days hiding in the local church while the Russians tried to convince us that they were here to help and patrolled the city and set up check points.

“When I finally had to leave the church to get back to our small apartment to get some extra clothes, I took some bibles with me. I gave them to the soldiers at the check point to read so they could die in peace, but they refused, they told me they were Muslim and that is when I realised that there were mercenaries from Chechnya and other countries in the city,” Iryna said.

“They the started to steal people’s private cars to patrol the city undercover and slowly, people started disappearing, never to be seen again. They kidnapped the pastor of our church and we never saw our neighbour again.
Snatch squads would just turn up, cover people’s heads with plastic bags and take them away.
“There were no shops, hardly any food, water or electricity and all the time we were being told they were here to help and that they were in special military manoeuvres,” Iryna said.
Anastasia has been clearly affected by her harrowing experience.
She was hesitant about talking to me. She asked Kristina what I was going to ask, where it would be published and who I was.

Kristina said Anastasia was determined to make a statement by saying that her name is “NATO please close the skies over Ukraine.”
“Most of the Russians on the streets were aged between 18 and 20 and quite often it was obvious they were either drunk or had taken drugs. The older men manned the checkpoints and they too behaved in a strange way,” Anastasia said.

Anastasia even sent a message to her president urging him to secure more NATO help and to open more humanitarian corridors.
“If NATO closed the skies we would defeat the Russians in a day and that would be the end of it for everyone,” she said.
The four were obviously happy to be back together again, but they can’t hide their worry and the strains of their ordeals.

“It was so depressing, it was all grey, all the bombed and destroyed buildings. The lack of supplies, the grief and sadness but the Ukrainians will not be broken. There are three million people prepared and ready to fight in the capital Kyiv, as our president has said, Russia will need over 100,000 troops to take the city,” Iryna said.

She also told of how humanitarian aid never got to them.
“Convoys were sent but the Russians intercepted and ransacked them leaving us with next to nothing, if anything by the time the trucks arrived. It was hell and heartbreaking to see what was being done to our country and the world can see what is happening. But it will end and we will recover our country and rebuild it,” Iryna said.

Margarita, who started work aged 17 in order to help the family financially has already found work in Mallorca.
“All we can do in the meantime is work, make as much money as we can and send as much as possible back home to help our fellow Ukrainians defeat the Russians and then rebuild the country,” Margarita said.
But what about their future now?
Anastasia said that she never ever planned on leaving her home city.
“I loved it, I wanted to spend my whole life there,” she said.
Now, they are busy trying to find a school for her and more work, but they said the local authorities and charities, not to mention local residents, are all being a great help, nothing is proving a problem.

And Iryna said that Palma reminds her of Ukraine.
“We often used to go to places by the sea, so being so close to the sea here in Mallorca and some of the architecture reminds me of home.
“Plus the people are very welcoming and open minded, very much like the Ukrainians. We may be many miles apart and not neighbours, but we all seem very similar in our outlook on life,” she said.

However, they would all like to see NATO step up a gear.
“Obviously, we are extremely grateful for all the military aid and money western governments are providing but what we really need is for NATO to close the sky over Ukraine.
“If they don’t, then the Ukrainians will take care of the Russians themselves. NATO talks a lot but are they going to properly help us?” Kristina said on behalf of the family who speak next to no English and no Spanish yet.

“The crisis is no longer isolated to Ukraine. Fuel and food prices are rising across the western world as a result of what Putin is doing, so surely it must be in NATO’s interests for a quick end to this war otherwise people across the western world will continue to suffer the economic impact of the conflict. Tensions are rising in the west with industrial action and even food rationing in supermarkets. This is all part of the fall out from Russia’s invasion. How many more children does the west want to see killed before it takes strong action? Over 140 children, some of them babies have already died, not to mention the thousands of adults who have been killed or wounded and are in desperate need of medicines, never mind food and shelter,” they said.

“The politicians may be talking but it does not heal our pain, it does not disinfect our wounds and we are all bleeding one way or another.”
Iryna’s mother and the sisters’ 76-year-old grandmother is still in Ukraine in Zaporizhzhia on her own and can’t leave. Will they ever see her again?

We don’t know if we will go back. We have left a small apartment with two bedrooms and don’t know if it is even still standing, what will we have to go back for?
“All we can do in the meantime is work hard and send as much financial help as we can back home,” they said.
As to how long the conflict will last, opinions differ. Kristina and Anastasia are confident a Ukrainian victory will come soon, Iryna and Margarita are not too convinced, but one thing they all agree on is that Ukraine will win.