Sisters Antonina Kunchenko, 62, and Natasha Titova, 59, travelled for three days across Ukraine to find safety in Slovakia.

The sisters spent a month sheltering in a cellar in Luhansk before they evacuated. They had worked hard all their lives – Antonina in a chemical plant, Natasha as a supermarket manager – and were looking forward to a comfortable retirement, but the war uprooted their plans.

“My home was destroyed. There is nothing to return to. We do not know where we are going to go,” Natasha says.

Antonina and Natasha found assistance at the border, where UNHCR and NGO partners are helping refugees to safety.

“Our task is to help them find their feet as quickly as possible,” says Tala Budziszewski, a UNHCR staffer on assignment as part of the emergency response.

Volunteers guided the sisters to a free minibus headed to the town of Michalovce, where a sports hall has been turned into a registration centre for refugees. Their driver normally takes tourists on excursions, but is now helping transport refugees.

Antonina and Natasha at a hostel for Ukrainian refugees in Prešov, Slovakia.
© UNHCR/Balazs Horvath

“Our task is to help them find their feet as quickly as possible” says Tala Budziszewski

Refugees at the Vysné Nemecke border point. 65,000 Ukrainian refugees have applied for protection in Slovakia. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

At the reception centre, Antonina and Natasha found a range of free services, including accommodation, psychological support, SIM cards, and even microchipping for pets.

At first, Natasha says she and her sister were panicking. They were afraid they would be homeless. However, after discussing their options with UNHCR staff, they decided to apply for temporary protection in Slovakia.

The police approved the sisters’ application in less than an hour. That evening, they took a bus to the city of Prešov, where local authorities and students had turned a university into a hostel for refugees.

They are now staying in a clean dormitory room and looking forward to establishing new lives in Slovakia.

“We will explore the town over the weekend,” says Antonina. “And then,” says Natasha, “we will start to look for work.”

Antonina and Natasha are among 65,000 Ukrainian refugees who have applied for protection in Slovakia, while 257,000 have travelled onwards to other destinations.

Your support can help more refugees like Antonina and Natasha find a safe place to live and start to rebuild their lives.  

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