General News

16 March, 2023

Home away from home

JUST over a year ago, Russian troops took their first steps onto Ukrainian soil, displacing countless citizens attempting to flee the conflict, including Iryna Kushnir who is attempting to forge a new life for herself in a foreign land.

By Rhys Thomas

Iryna Kushnir has spent the past seven months living in Australia after fleeing the war in Ukraine
Iryna Kushnir has spent the past seven months living in Australia after fleeing the war in Ukraine

Many Ukrainians took up the fight against their invaders including many of Iryna’s friends and family, some of which have since lost their lives in the defence of their country.

Iryna is from the central part of Ukraine called the Vinnitsia region but prior to the war, she lived in Odessa for 10 years, a city in the south of the country bordering the Black Sea.

Russian and Ukrainian forces are currently fighting over the city of Kerson in southern Ukraine, about 150km away from where Iryna used to live, roughly the same distance from Mareeba to Cardwell as the crow flies.

Iryna arrived in Australia June last year with her cousin and her husband and has been working in the office for Howe Farming in Mareeba, a job she is grossly overqualified for.

She is a qualified Ukrainian lawyer and graduated with a master’s degree from Odesa Mechnikov National University in 2017.

Prior to the war, Iryna worked in the Odessa region’s prosecutor’s office for five years as a chief specialist with dreams to be a prosecutor.

Her dream was put on hold due to the invasion but she now hopes to become a lawyer in Australia and has been taking English lessons every week to adjust to her new life.

“I have found Australia to be warm and welcoming,” Iryna said.

“The way of life is certainly different from back home, it took me a little while to adjust but I enjoy living here.

“We Ukrainian people appreciate everything you have done for us to help us.”

Iryna said it was initially difficult to adjust to life in Australia, sometimes due to what others could see as strange reasons, including the sound of jet engines.

The sound of jet engines was a terrifying experience in Ukraine compared to what it means in Australia – the sound of a holiday opposed to the sound of an imminent aerial strike from a fighter jet.

Iryna was forced to leave her parents, family and friends behind in Ukraine and she misses them dearly.

Some of her friends have unfortunately died protecting their country, and her uncle, who joined the military three months ago has been missing for over two weeks.

As Iryna’s family lives in central Ukraine, they have been relatively safe from the invasion however Iryna still worries because missile strikes are commonplace and can hit areas well away from the frontlines.

Iryna still keeps in contact with her parents and calls them when she can.

“Thank God they are in relative safety but I still worry about them because you cannot hide from a missile attack,” she said.

Iryna hopes to one day return to her country and spend time with her family however she has fallen in love with Australia, its landscape and its people and is thinking about staying.

“When we win, I hope to return and hug my par-ents – I miss them a lot,” she said.


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