Photo: Yass local Marichka Eadie out the front of Trader & Co.

Yass local Marichka Eadie moved to Australia from her native Ukraine in 2015 after meeting her now-husband while working with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan resettling refugees. She said the war, approaching its one-month milestone, is “heartbreaking”.

Although Russia’s assault on Ukraine has stalled along most fronts, failing to seize any major city or topple the government, shelling and missiles have caused devastation in residential areas. The UN Migration Agency said on Monday that nearly 6.5 million people had been displaced in Ukraine as a direct result of the war, exceeding its worst forecasts.

Marichka spent several days earlier this month outside the Russian Embassy protesting the biggest assault on a European state since 1945 alongside Canberra’s small Ukrainian community. The group also gathered outside the EU Mission to thank them for their support and to ask for closed skies over Ukraine.

“That would really help to protect against aerial bombardment,” she said. “[Russian forces] are making lots of damages and lots of casualties by shelling bombs and it’s really heartbreaking.

“I have lots of friends and have family in Kyiv, and Kyiv is just getting destroyed.”

“Children and mothers are hiding in the shelters; babies are being born in the shelters underground.”

Indeed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of carrying out genocide after officials said Russian aircraft bombed a children’s hospital on March 9, burying patients in rubble despite a ceasefire deal for people to flee the besieged city of Mariupol.

Authorities said the attack injured women in labour and left children in the hospital.

“What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, is afraid of maternity hospitals, and destroys them?” the Ukrainian President Volodymyr said in a televised address.

“It’s absolutely unimaginable,” she said. After studying and living in Kyiv in the past Marichka has been unable to travel back to Ukraine to visit friends and family the last three years first due to the birth of her twins in 2019 and then due to Covid.

“I was planning to travel this year,” the mother of three said. “Later in spring or summer, and this is all just absolutely unimaginable.”

Marichka said despite warnings of a possible Russian assault from US and UK intelligence no one could imagine there would be an attack on such scale.

“No one was expecting a real war.”

She was absolutely shocked and in disbelief when she originally heard the news of the invasion at the end of February.

“The first few days, none of us could sleep,” she said. “We were trying to follow the news trying to see what is happening with our relatives and our friends and it got to the point that every one of us here (in Australia) was very exhausted.”

“I worked with refugees before, I interviewed lots of Afghan refugees and refugees from other countries as well and I just couldn’t believe that the same things are happening in my country.”

“We had independence for 30 years and there were lots of efforts made to make this country better, to make it prosperous.”

“It’s very painful to see all that under attack again.”

By Brianna O’Rourke