“I have always wanted to live abroad and travel for a little bit more. It’s one of my goals. I still call myself a young professional. And when I moved and I think about opportunities, I am joyful. But then in a second you go back to the news (about Ukraine), you go back thinking about your family, your country and about everything our people are losing and it’s terrifying”.
I have a truly inspirational guest on my Six Seconds Moments of Clarity Podcast. Oksana Lemishka is now a refugee from Ukraine. Oksana is a University of Cambridge educated sociologist and a media and culture specialist who fled Kyiv on the first day of the invasion.
Oksana tells her emotional and harrowing story of fleeing Ukraine to Hungary, then Austria and finally to Germany. Oksana shares great insights into why Ukraine has shown such resilience, determination and even positivity in the face of such adversity.
Oksana has worked on peace initiatives and studies for many international companies and Governments but now she is coming to terms with having to leave Ukraine with hardly any possessions and a new life.
“It’s depressing and I miss my family. I am still not at peace with myself that I’m not going back. I still have my friends in my head. It never leaves you. It stays with you. And I am lucky. Lucky because I didn’t have lots of belongings and was able to move.” I left with what I am wearing, a (laptop) computer and my passport. That’s all I have”.
Oksana fled Kyiv with her boyfriend and his parents. This was the first time she had met her boyfriend’s parents and then spent 16 hours with them travelling to the border. They then made their way to Budapest and got a hotel. The receptionist told her that there were lots of Ukrainian’s staying and asked if there something special on. She puts this down to the lack of information about the invasion from Orban’s government in Hungary.
The family then went to Munich where they stayed at an apartment owned by a friend of Oksanna from Cambridge. Oksana said she is so thankful to the people of Europe. “Our friends hosted us in an apartment in the city centre. And this was so welcoming. All of this time people open their doors, but also hotels open their doors. I’m talking now from a Munich hotel, which offered us a couple of nights free. And this is amazing how people react to us. Also all the transport here is free for us in Germany. And this is really helpful”.
When I asked her if she was shocked by the invasion, she told me “You know, we had warnings for a long time. And then you at some point, you get used to them? You think it’s not going to happen. And I think this invasion on this scale is a surprise to everyone. No one believed it could be this full-fledged”
“And yes, my job was to study societies and to advise on how to make people happier. I worked for peaceful organizations. I’ll keep on wondering why all the peaceful organizations fail to maintain peace. Why do we, as an international community, fail to maintain democracy and to secure what we believe in most? Because the crisis in Ukraine is not because of anything that Ukraine did wrong. It’s because there is a country who has no principles and is basically doing whatever they want. It is irrational to want to kill and invade”.
But when I point out that Ukraine has shown great resilience. The country seems very much together and that she must feel great pride for her country and that her leader Zelensky shown amazing emotional intelligence who even after the terrible things that are going on every day, the genocide. He is still saying ‘we’ll talk to Russia’”
“Yes, I’m proud of every single Ukrainian. These are people for whom freedom is more valuable than life. I admire (Zelensky) that he doesn’t call for more anger. He has shown great emotional intelligence. But he has this deeper understanding of life and forgiveness in his speeches. And even recently, he talked about treating his enemies with respect. And this is what I admire most about my country”.
When I asked Oksana can she imagine ever returning she gave me an inspiring answer “I was asked this question many times. And I say in my mind, the war will end every day. Okay, tomorrow, it ends tomorrow. Although I really realize that this can be a long term war. But I’m lucky. I am Ukraine here in Munich. And that’s what’s beautiful about it. I can be Ukrainian and inspire from here as well. I can travel back home in the future, but I can be Ukrainian whenever I go. And this is important to us all”.
This Podcast is produced by Fergal O’Keeffe for Six Seconds Europe, who are part of the global Non-Profit Six Seconds and are dedicated to growing awareness of emotional intelligence. For further information see www.6seconds.org/eu