Firsthand: “All the cities were bombed at the same time,” a Greek woman from Odessa made a difficult journey to Greece

Opera singer Aglaya Polichronidi, a Greek woman who has lived in Odessa for over 30 years, left Ukraine due to the Russian invasion. She tells how difficult the decision was and how difficult her path to Athens was.

In an interview Newsbeast Ms Polichronidi says:

“I will never forget how my nephew called us on the phone and said: “The army is coming, I see soldiers with my own eyes.”

Taking documents and clothes for the first time, the woman left Ukraine, but it was not easy. She spent three days at the Moldovan border with ten other family members, a parrot and three pet cats. Then they went to Bucharest, and from there they flew to Athens.

Ms. Polychronidi, 53, describes the nightmarish moments she will remember forever and her life in Ukraine. She says that she will never forget February 24, the explosions that woke her up in the early morning and 32 hours in the car on the way to the Moldovan border:

“I am Greek, born in Georgia, lived and worked in Odessa for over 30 years. I am a musician, opera singer, laureate of international competitions, Honored Artist of Ukraine, Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences. I work at the Odessa Philharmonic, I am the head of the solo ensemble of the art group “Vozrozhdeniye”. I am also vice-president of the public organization “Greeks of Odessa”. We were not going to leave Odessa. Neither I nor my sister believed that what was said on television, that Russia could enter Ukraine, could become a reality. But that day we woke up at 5 am from the bombing. They started bombing all the cities at the same time. We woke up from the noise, from the falling bombs. On the first day, we hit the port of Odessa two or three times, we also hit the electronics factory and military depots.”

The decision to urgently leave Ukraine was influenced by a phone call from her nephew, Aglaya Polikhronidi continues excitedly:

“We got a call from my sister’s eldest son, who has an agricultural business outside Kherson, near the Crimean border. He was in the field and preparing to cultivate the land. He told my sister: “Mom, get ready immediately, we must definitely leave. The army is coming. Russian soldiers are crossing our field. I see them with my own eyes.”

Despite the difficult departure from the country that has become her native, and the long road to Greece, Ms. Polichronidi does not lose hope of returning back:

“I came to Greece with a small bag. I took almost nothing. I thought we’d be back in two or three days. I have a passport, the money I had at home, some of my mother’s jewelry. I was wearing jeans, put a pair of pants, a T-shirt and a suit in my bag.”

A woman tells how, two weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she received a call from Greek Consulate and asked: “Do you intend to leave now, when there are so many rumors?” I answered “no”. Only my older nephew and I have a Greek passport, and my sister has a resettlement certificate. I asked if I could take my grandchildren with me if I decided to leave. However, the answer was negative, only persons with Greek citizenship can leave. But Ms. Polichronidi was not ready to leave her family: “I didn’t even think about it… I wouldn’t leave my family.”

The vice-president of the Greeks of Odessa public organization describes his difficult journey to Athens after he finally had to make a difficult decision and set off along with 10 other members of his family:

“We got into cars and drove to the Moldovan border. We were on the road for 32 hours to get to Moldova. I was very impressed by the way the Moldovans met us. Well done, I take my hat off to them and applaud them. We set up a big tent near the border, it was very cold. They brought generators, the thermometer showed -1 degrees Celsius, brought portable radiators to warm ourselves, gave us bottled water, cookies and food. Volunteers helped us, ordinary people held pieces of paper in their hands, in which it was written in English, Russian and Ukrainian that we could stay here, that they could accept us. We cried. We were touched.”

Opera singer continues:

“We stayed in Moldova for three days. We were placed in hotels near the border. We thought that the situation would calm down and we could return to our homes, but this did not happen. My sister’s second son was not allowed to stay in Moldova, he was sent back to Ukraine, because he is liable for military service and he does not have Greek citizenship, he only has a Ukrainian passport. In total, 11 people left my family. We took our three cats and a parrot with us. None of the refugees left their animals behind. They were in everyone’s hands.”

The decision to go to Greece came after the opera singer’s family heard about the bombing of Izmail, a regional town 50 kilometers from the Moldovan border. Mrs Polichronidi continues her story:

“The Moldovans were afraid that the war would come to them, so we decided to leave for Greece. We already felt that the story would not end so quickly. We went to Bucharest in Romania, from there the women and children got on a plane, and the rest went to Greece by car.”

Ukrainian opera singer says:

“People need to know the truth and understand what exactly is happening. Many who live in Greece watch the information that the Russians are transmitting, who say something completely different from what is happening. Lie.”

The woman tells how they settled in the Greek capital, and shares her plans for the future:

“I know that my house in Odessa is still in order, my nephew’s family is there. We rented two houses in Athens because there are 11 of us and animals along with us. We all hope that the war will end and we can return to Odessa. I can stay in Greece, but my life was spent in Ukraine. I had a job. It will be a tragedy if we cannot return.”

Aglaya Polichronidi warns:

“Greece and all of Europe must understand the following: Ukraine is at war, Russia will not stop. If Ukraine fails and Europe falls, it cannot be saved. The airspace of Ukraine must be closed, otherwise it cannot be, the European catastrophe can be big. Vladimir Putin will not stop, he wants to make a big catastrophe. He commits crimes. The Ukrainians will defend the country until the last moment, they will fight to knock out the Russian army. We do not have a bad attitude towards the Russians, just a huge rejection of the policies of the Russian government.”

For those who want to get to know Aglaya Polichronidi better, we suggest watching a video filmed a month ago, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “The most valuable thing a person has is life!” – Aglaya Polichronidi.

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