Mexicans who evacuated from Ukraine long to return | #socialmedia


MEXICO CITY — Alba Becerra said she can’t forget the sound of the explosions in the Ukrainian town of Horenychi, 10 minutes from Kyiv, where she lived until Feb. 25. At dawn that day, the invading Russian forces bombed an airfield there.

“I didn’t want to leave. My whole life was there,” Becerra, 50, told Noticias Telemundo from Mexico City. “The bombs convinced me I had to grab a few things, put them in a suitcase and leave with my son, my daughter-in-law and cats.”

Becerra, a language teacher who lived in Ukraine for 32 years, was part of the first group of 81 people the Mexican government evacuated from Romania on March 4. In that group were 44 Mexicans, 28 Ukrainians, seven Ecuadorians, one Peruvian and one Australian who managed to escape the rigors of war.

The Mexican government recently announced that a second plane will fly to Romania to evacuate a second group.

Mexicans and other Latin Americans who were living in Ukraine arrive at the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City on an evacuation flight provided by Mexico’s government on March 4.Fernando Llano / AP

Nearly 3 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since the invasion began. About 116,000 of them are “third country nationals,” not Ukrainians. The majority have fled to neighboring Poland. Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia have also taken in people fleeing across the border. 

The war appears far from over. Russia’s forces have pummeled Ukraine, and deadly strikes hit a residential part of Kyiv on Tuesday.

For Becerra, the ordeal began Feb. 24. She had accompanied a Mexican friend to run errands at the Mexican Embassy in Kyiv when the invasion began. Since the subway was closed, people flooded the streets. The trip back home, which usually takes 25 minutes with traffic, took 7 1/2 hours.

At 11 the next morning, Becerra was on her way out of Ukraine in her car. Although she had few belongings, she said she managed to leave with what was most important: her son, daughter-in-law and six cats. 

Amid curfews and heavy traffic with hundreds of thousands of people struggling to reach the borders, Becerra passed through cities like Vasylkiv, Bila Tserkva, Khmelnytskyi, Kamianets-Podilskyi and Chernivtsi.

Image: Mexican citizens and relatives remain in Romania, amid the Russian invasion in Ukraine, in Bucharest
Silvia, 35, who is Mexican, holds her daughter Maria Cristina inside the kitchen of the Mexican Embassy in Romania, after traveling from the border with Ukraine and fleeing the Russian invasion, in Bucharest, Romania, on Monday.Edgard Garrido / Reuters

“They only sold us 20 liters of gasoline at the stations, and we had to wait many hours in the cold,” Becerra said. “We had to walk along sidewalks and back roads. That’s why it took us four days to make a trip that normally takes 12 hours at most.”

Despite the relentless attacks by Russia, many foreigners have decided to stay in Ukraine to help fight back. Others have stayed in nearby countries, so they can return as soon as possible.

Larissa García, who is Mexican, evacuated Ukraine along with Becerra but stayed in the Romanian capital of Bucharest to be close to her husband, who is in the midst of the war.

“Feeling like a refugee and not a tourist are very different feelings. I realized that when I got here, and it’s very unpleasant,” García said. “I’m not going back to Mexico. My soul, my heart and my spirit are in Ukraine.”

García lived in Ukraine for 26 years and owns a company that distributes beauty products.

Many Mexicans who were repatriated this month said the anguish did not end when they reached their homeland. The war accompanies them everywhere. Checking their friends’ notifications on social media and watching the news immediately takes them back to the cruelties of war.

Image: Mexican citizens and relatives remain in Romania to travel to Mexico after the Russian invasion in Ukraine
Ismael, who is Mexican, and his wife, Anzhela, who is Ukrainian, leave a temporary shelter after traveling from the border with Ukraine following the Russian invasion, in Bucharest, Romania, on Saturday.Edgard Garrido / Reuters

Manuel González Oscoy, a specialist in clinical psychology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, explained to Noticias Telemundo that it is normal for people who have just arrived in the country to continue feeling shocked by the updates they receive from Ukraine.

“These people left everything, from one day to the next, and those losses, in addition to the deaths and the horrors of war, must be processed with professional help,” González Oscoy said.

González Oscoy did not rule out that, in some cases, the survivors of armed conflicts could develop other conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical advice and treatment are needed for people experiencing recurrent memories, nightmares and episodes of severe emotional distress.

“The repetition of events, like memories, must be discussed a lot in order to unblock and assimilate them. From a neurochemical perspective, it has been shown that communication helps a lot,” he said.

Rosalía Tovar, 36, who arrived in Mexico on the government evacuation flight said, “I wake up every morning longing and dreaming of waking up in my bed, in my house in Kyiv and that there is no war.”

For Tovar, activism and networking have helped her be resilient and process all the anguish from recent weeks.

“You have to understand that it’s not a vacation. It feels like an exile, and that’s why you have to stop thinking like a victim and assume the role of a volunteer,” she said.

Tovar is working with a project to virtually teach kids who are outside the conflict zone. She is also taking part in marches in support of Ukraine.  

“As soon as it is possible,” Becerra said, “I will return, and I intend to join society to help as a volunteer in the reconstruction.”

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