Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

Goats and soda: NPR

Anastasiia Ivanova, a refugee from Ukraine, says her faith is what got her through all her hardships. She took her Bible with her when the family fled Kharkiv to Brazil. But a new crisis left her wondering if Brazil was the right place for her.

Gabriela Portilho/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Gabriela Portilho/NPR

Anastasiia Ivanova, a refugee from Ukraine, says her faith is what got her through all her hardships. She took her Bible with her when the family fled Kharkiv to Brazil. But a new crisis left her wondering if Brazil was the right place for her.

Gabriela Portilho/NPR

Shortly after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, in February 2022, Laryssa Moskvichova and her three daughters fled the bombs falling from the sky on their neighborhood in Kharkiv. By a circuitous route, they ended up in an unknown country: Brazil, and finally in a southern city called Prudentópolis, known as “Little Ukraine” because of the many Ukrainians who had settled there a century ago. . Last year, we told you how this family, displaced by war in Europe, found community and a sense of belonging in South America.

We caught up with Laryssa and her eldest daughter a year later to find out how they are faring as the war in Ukraine continues.

About this series

Over the next week we’ll be going over some of our favorites Goats and soda stories to see “whatever happened to…”

Prudentópolis was, in many ways, the perfect landing platform for Laryssa Moskvichova and her daughters Anastasiia, Sofia and Ruslana after their winding journey through Ukraine, Poland and Germany. There they were able to speak Ukrainian with many locals, descendants of the first Ukrainians who settled in Prudentópolis 116 years earlier. Other elements of their culture were also still present in the daily life of this city of 52,000 people, including the music, dance and intricate designs of pysanka, Traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs.

They quickly became friends with Andreia Burko Bley, her husband, Paulo Bley, and their two young sons, one of whom is the same age as Ruslana. Thanks to their support, the refugees felt more at home than they could have ever imagined, in a place so different from what they had known.

But after a year in the small town, they realized they had to leave.

Despite Brazil’s relatively liberal policy on receiving asylum seekers, many refugees find that once settled, the government provides them with little support.

Anastasiia suffered from health problems and had to undergo surgery to correct a collapsed lung. Even though Brazil’s public healthcare system was available to them – even non-residents can enter Brazil and use it for free – they feared it might not be able to help them quickly enough. Private health care could offer faster treatment and better access to the latest medical technologies, they were told, but it would also cost far more than they could afford. Luckily a friend stepped in and offered to pay.

The family felt they couldn’t risk another health crisis in a country where they weren’t sure they could get the necessary care quickly enough.

The two younger sisters also struggled, studying at a Brazilian school by day and taking online classes at a Ukrainian school at night. Sofia, now 15, struggled to understand why they couldn’t go home.

The deeply religious family viewed all of these developments as signs from God. They decided they had to make a change.

One day, after cycling to the park, Anastasiia, now 23, sat on a bench to read the Bible and pray, asking God for guidance. She hoped to see another sign. When nothing happened, she turned to her bike, ready to go home.

There, written on the metal frame, were the words “German Tech World.”

“I didn’t want to believe it,” says Anastasiia. “Because I didn’t want to go. I had heard a lot of things about Germany and a lot of them weren’t good. But that was the answer. It came to me in a different way from what I expected.”

In the weeks that followed, Anastasiia says she saw other signs: German flags in places they hadn’t once been, German family moving to Prudentópolis, and Laryssa’s friends in Germany telling her to move. Even a Brazilian friend told the family it was best to leave, as the country was in economic trouble and government aid for refugees was insufficient.

The family began considering a move. Anastasiia asked around if anyone around her knew someone in Germany who could help her. Three different people have recommended a Ukrainian pastor to an evangelical church similar to his. He had gone to Germany at the start of the war and had rebuilt his church there. The pastor has helped many Ukrainian families find accommodation in their new homes – which can take months, as the demand for housing in the country is high – and his church has provided funds for them to get there.

To Anastasiia’s surprise, just three or four days after calling her for the first time, the pastor found her a room in Regensburg, a Bavarian town on the Danube, that she could share with another Ukrainian. She planned to live alone, as before fleeing Ukraine. Her mother and siblings would also leave, but as the family left Brazil, Laryssa, Sofia and Ruslana still didn’t know where they would live.

The family landed at Frankfurt Airport on Easter Day and Anastasiia took a train to their new home in the southeast. Laryssa and her two youngest daughters have been sent to a refugee camp, standard procedure for refugees arriving in Germany who do not yet have a home. They spent three weeks in four different camps set up in stadium-sized spaces, where showers weren’t always available, the lights were always on and the noise never died down. Of the hundreds of people in the shared space, many were sick.

Laryssa’s only friend in Germany, Tatiana, was looking for accommodation for the family. When Laryssa heard that a home had been found for her and her two youngest daughters, they were overwhelmed with relief. With funds provided by government aid, they moved into a 300-year-old four-bedroom house in the spa town of Bad-Orb, just outside Frankfurt and a six-hour train ride from Anastasiia.

Since Laryssa isn’t allowed to work yet, she spends her days studying German online, using YouTube videos and other free courses to learn as much as she can until she starts German lessons. government integration early next year. When Sofia and Ruslana are not at school – they have decided to stop attending the Ukrainian online school and only study at the German school during the day – their favorite places are the many parks and swimming pools in hot salt water of their new hometown and the shops that line its streets.

The funding they receive from the German government is not huge, but it is enough to survive – more than what they received in Brazil. And the health insurance that covers them all puts them at ease. Laryssa knows this move has been good for her daughters, but she struggles with not being able to work and get on with her life. Her parents, who remained in Poltava, miss her and she worries about their health. With only one friend in Germany, Laryssa says she often feels isolated and longs to return to the life she led before the war.

“Then I had freedom, I had happiness,” she says. “But even if I wanted to go back to Ukraine now, there’s nothing left for me. Our house is over 100 years old and it probably didn’t survive the bombings. If it did, it would take a lot of work and money to fix it, and there are no jobs with decent wages. And even if all of that wasn’t a problem, it’s still not safe.

For Anastasiia, the transition was easier. In July, she finished her studies in arts through e-learning and plans to teach singing as she did in Ukraine. His government-run German courses start in September. She became friends with her roommate and built a community of support through her church.

“They’re great people,” she says. “We do projects together, laugh together, sing and play music together. That’s exactly what I need.”

When the owners of the apartment where Anastasiia lives gave her an old bicycle, she fixed its faulty brakes and started riding it through the forest paths she can see from her bedroom window.

She doesn’t yet know how long she will stay in Germany – “after so many changes, who knows where I will be in a year” – but for now she is happy. She knows that being safe and settled, even temporarily, is more than many other Ukrainians currently have as war continues to ravage her country.

“The people here are so nice, the weather is great and there’s so much nature where I can be at peace,” she says. “I can see that I’m experiencing an answered prayer.”


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

Back to top button