KORCZOWA, Poland — Before the Russian invasion, Lilith Huseimaliieva was an English teacher from Bila Tserkva, a city roughly 50 miles from the bustling capital city of Kyiv, Ukraine. Now, she and her daughter are in a place they don’t recognize; her husband is back in Ukraine; and she doesn’t know where she will end up next.
“In my hometown, I was a respected person. Now I’m just dust,” Huseimaliieva told The Daily Wire in an in-person interview, on a bus filled with refugees traveling to the Polish border from Lviv. “This is how war changes your life.”
Huseimaliieva, 36, fled after it became clear Bila Tserkva would be on the war line. The rockets didn’t spare the city. One of them, she said, nearly struck her sister’s house. It missed, but the blast shattered all the windows.
“You know, they were saying Russia’s going to attack, Russia’s going to attack,” she said. “We didn’t believe it because we are connected. We are interlaced with Russians and Belarusians many, many generations.”
Huseimaliieva is one of the millions of Ukrainians whose lives have been upended by the war. According to U.N. estimates, over 2 million refugees had left Ukraine for neighboring countries as of Tuesday. Hundreds of people have been killed, and the number is only expected to grow.
Like many, Huseimaliieva and her daughter, 13, packed quickly. She left early in the morning and arrived at a Polish refugee camp at 2:45 am. From there, she took a five-hour bus to Warsaw. She spent the night with a host family and was offered a shower. She plans to go to Germany next.
She also fears she will never see her husband again.
“I don’t even have words to put to you the way I feel. It’s like I left my heart with him. I feel empty inside,” she said.
She says the decision to leave home, with only a suitcase, was a “very, very hard choice.” She admits she cries most nights. But she knows she must think of her daughter’s future.
On the bus, her daughter keeps her spirits high. She accompanied her mother and was proud of her mother for speaking English and speaking to journalists. She even had her mother translate a few sentences to chat with the journalists. But beyond the surface, her daughter, like the several other children on the bus, was exhausted. The nearly 18 hours of travel was evident on their faces as they sat on the laps of their parents and fell asleep before being ushered off the bus to go through security at the border.
When they reach Poland, they are greeted with stuffed animals, snacks, and warm drinks. Many of the parents sip coffee, smiles hiding their 1,000-yard stares. They converse about their journey so far, and the one still to come.
“In Ukraine, we have this very popular poet; her name is Lesya Ukrainka,” Huseimaliieva said. “And she had a poem, and she said, ‘I laugh not to cry.’ So it’s like, probably our position we laugh because we want to hide our tears.”
Huseimaliieva is concerned about what the invasion could mean for the rest of the world. She warns, “no one is safe.”
“I don’t even know what’s going to be next,” she said. “I’m actually really afraid for the world’s destiny because if this man, [Putin], calls us brothers and sisters and comes to destroy our houses and kill our children and women. Can you imagine what he can do to other parts of the world who thinks are his enemies and competition?”