05 May 2023
  • Rima Kabrilyants | IOM Armenia

Up to 400,000 ethnic Armenians lived in Ukraine before the war and many hold Armenian passports. The European Union has allowed them to enter EU counties bordering Ukraine without Schengen visas. IOM has helped 100 Armenians to return to their native land since the invasion.

Two months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Anna’s parents, took the hardest decision ever: short-term separation.

“It sounded very much like a jail sentence to me”, Anna says. “My father and uncle Vlad stayed with the elderly grandparents in Kirovohrad, and me, mum, and my little brother Areg fled to Slovakia, where an old acquaintance of my uncle promised to help and offered us a temporary shelter.”

The journey to Bratislava took two days and involved three route changes over more than 700 km but they made it safely. At the bus station, uncle Vlad’s friend met the family and took them to his modest accommodation in one of the suburbs of the city.

Here in Bratislava, they found out that the situation around Kirovohrad region had deteriorated right after they left, and that uncle Vlad had been killed.

Although the family stayed in Bratislava for only two months, Anna and her brother started taking school classes daily.

“Our education was always very important for our parents, so when we arrived in Slovakia, first thing my mum tried to arrange for us with the social workers was school. We did not know how long we would end up staying in Bratislava”.

The initial plan was to find a way to return to their native country, Armenia, which was arranged by IOM.

“We have received return and reintegration assistance which I am grateful for from the bottom of my heart. It has given us a chance to stay on firm ground”, she says.

The siblings are now back in the city in which they were born and raised. They are attending their former school with their old friends. Anna is studying hard and preparing for university entrance exams this June. She wants to become an interpreter. “It’s my dream to study in university and to succeed in life.”

She becomes quiet, and through tears says “we have no news from my father since we are back in Armenia, but I believe that he will find and contact us one day. I want to make him proud with my achievements”.

Back home in Armenia after her escape from Ukraine, Anna is studying to enter university