TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – One year later, Russia and Ukraine are still in the midst of a war. A local Ukrainian refugee looks back from when she left her homeland to her life now.
Mariia Potapenko fled Ukraine in March 2022. Leaving her husband, mother and life behind. She said it was too dangerous to keep her family there, she took her eldest son and daughter and left Ukraine.
“It was immediately,” Potapenko said. “Making sure to save my children. I understand that if I stay here, I can be bombed.
A year ago, the world watched as Russia invaded Ukraine. Mariia said that before the war life was simple and normal for her.
“We lived our lives as usual,” Potapenko said. “We worked; we went to dance school.
Leaving her homeland was not easy for Mariia. She arrived six months later on American soil, where she knew she and her children were safe. Today she reflects on the terrifying times and all that her country has gone through.
“Russia wants to separate us,” Potapenko said. “I think it’s genocide for Ukrainians.”
Despite the adversity, Potapenko said one thing is certain: Ukrainians stick together.
“But the Ukrainians… help each other in this situation.”
It may not be her homeland, but Potapenko has adopted a new life here in Topeka, where her kids go to school and she works. She said it was hard to adjust at first, but she’s happy she made the decision.
“I like life here, to be honest,” Potapenko said. “I feel safe here.”