© Reuters. Tetiana Harkusha leaves the car in which she learned to drive during private classes in Lodz, Poland February 25, 2023. REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki


By Kuba Stezycki

WARSAW (Reuters) – While millions of Ukrainians fled to Poland last spring, Tetiana Harkusha, a 27-year-old employment agency worker, boarded a bus to return home to Chernihiv, a Ukrainian town that Russian bombing has since turned to rubble. Back in Poland a year later, she has taken on a new endeavor to help her reunite with her mother who is still in Ukraine.

“I really want to get my driving license. I went to school here to pass those exams. I know that mum won’t be able to come by bus, you have to travel for 24 hours. I hope my dream will come true and I will go to pick her up by my own car,” she told Reuters sitting in her flat last week.

Chernihiv was on the frontlines of the full-scale Russian invasion that started on Feb. 24, 2022. At the end of March, Russian forces had effectively surrounded the city and bombs were falling on residential areas.

Harkusha had returned home last year to see her parents, including her ailing father who has since passed.

“Half of the city is destroyed,” she told Reuters at the bus station in Poland last April. “My parents don’t have water, electricity, mobile connection… nothing. That’s how they have lived for three weeks now.”

One year into the war, Harkusha mourns not only the destruction of the town she grew up in, but also her father. His passing, she says, has been harder for her to accept than the war. Now back in Lodz, she is determined to reunite with her mother.

While her first attempt at the state driving exam was unsuccessful, Harkusha does not give up.

“I’ve never driven a car… Two years ago, I said I would never drive a car,” she said. “Mom was left alone… I want to take her here,” she says.


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