Escaping the War in Ukraine
Radio Télévision Suisse | 15min
00:00:03,531 VO: -A road somewhere in Ukraine. It started on Thursday morning. The war is back in Europe and for the population, it is the beginning of a nightmare that no one wanted to believe. 44 million Ukrainians are at the at the mercy of the bombs facing questions as simple as whether to stay or to leave the country. Alexander lives in this popular neighborhood of the capital. He agreed to film himself from the first day of the war.
00:00:40,077 Alexander: -My name is Alexander. I work in the in Ukrainian cinema. I used to be a war journalist. I didn't imagine that the war would occur in my city. In the capital of my country, Kyiv. I'm with my girlfriend, we went out to do some shopping, to buy food and water.
0’46 Alexander Nedbaev, Kyiv resident
00:01:10,136 VO: -The first bombings took place that morning. Alexander and Aliona are trying to prepare but most ATMs are already empty and supermarket shelves are deserted. Kyiv discovers life under siege.
1’35 Escaping the War in Ukraine
00:01:40,932 VO: -More than 2,000 kilometers away, this restaurant has become the headquarters for Ukrainians in Lausanne. Outside, a signpost tells visitors what to expect inside. Here everyone is in shock, everyone tries to reach their loved ones back home. Igor, the boss, tries to to sort out the fake news and the real news. A collection has been set up to to raise money to help the country and flowers were placed by by neighbors in support. Maryna, the boss, tries to hold on. This is one of the longest days of her life.
00:02:21,000 Maryna: It was stressful, because in the morning, around 6am or even earlier, I received a call from my mama and she told me that my hometown was bombed. Sorry, it’s difficult.
0’29 Maryna Zakrevska
00:02:47,916 VO: -Everyone here is amazed. They watch from a distance the war on their homeland.
00:02:57,230 Maryna: Here it is through a window, this is where my aunt is living.
00:03:05,876 VO: -Maryna has all her family there. She arrived in Lausanne with her husband 7 years ago. Tonight, she tries to keep the restaurant running, despite everything.
00:03:18,130 Maryna: My expectation was, I thought that Putin would go with small bites with more and more territory in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. But he went full scale, so he’s bombing all of Ukraine, all the big cities, in the western part, the eastern part, he’s bombing everywhere.
3’29 Maryna Zakrevska
00:03:42,395 Maryna: -What do your Russian friends say?
Woman: -They are all on our side.
Maryna: -Mine too. At least all those who've written to me.
00:03:59,309 VO: -Not all of the Russian community in Switzerland take this view. Earlier that same evening, we met Elvira in Geneva. She has given us an appointment at the headquarters of her party, the UDC. Elvira is listening to the latest information about the war and has a very different reading of it.
00:04:25,040 Elvira: -Of course. it touches me! When you see that, you get your heart broken.
4’45 Elvira Voskresenskaia
00:04:31,769 Reporter: -Why is Russia attacking Ukraine?
Elvira: -For me, it is not Russia's attack on Ukraine. Russia is protecting the population in eastern Ukraine from the very military policy of the current leaders of Ukraine.
00:05:01,341 VO: -We met Elvira last summer during the Russian-American summit. She was in the street to cheer Vladimir Putin. She says he had no choice: he had to send his troops to Ukraine.
00:05:16,803 Elvira: -This is a peacekeeping operation. They are trying to dissuade NATO from advancing towards the Kremlin gate. Russia did not put its military bases on the border between Mexico and the USA or between Canada and the USA, and yet, we have US military bases everywhere on the European continent.
00:05:49,304 VO: -In Ukraine, the population is experiencing a second night of fear and bombing. Some people spend it in the corridors of the subway. Alexander stayed home and regretted it.
00:06:08,731 Alexander: -It is now 04:30am. We were awakened by explosions. It was Russian missiles falling on Kyiv. Fortunately, our anti-aircraft defense worked well. We're going to pack our bags now and head west.
6’15 Alexander Nedbaev, Kyiv resident
00:06:35,400 Alexander: -Some water, some medicine, some chocolates
00:06:38,984 VO: -At dawn, Alexander and his friend are ready to leave.
00:06:42,181 Alexander: -We've charged the phones. We have the passports, the phones, the chargers. We leave everything else.
00:06:53,132 VO: -They've left everything else behind them and headed to the west, but they are not the only ones.
00:07:00,660 Alexander: -We are in a huge traffic jam at the exit of the city. It moves, but very slowly.
00:07:13,605 VO: -The Ukrainian army is losing ground to the Russians. The president calls for general mobilization of troops. The call concerns everyone up to the Ukrainian restaurant in Lausanne. Igor is a career military man. This morning, he answers questions from a journalist. When the reporter asks him what he is going to do, there is a frostiness in the restaurant.
00:07:41,240 Reporter: Maybe in the next few weeks, might you receive a message from the army asking you to come back?
Igor: Yes, and I will. Sure. I think that my wife will be disappointed about it but I think that she will understand me.
00:08:05,738 VO: -The subject is sensitive.
00:08:07,200 Reporter: Maryna, are you afraid that your husband might go back?
Maryna: Don’t ask. No. It is a difficult question to answer.
00:08:40,227 VO: -The war is intensifying and is affecting more and more civilians. Alexander left in time, but the escape is endless. Everyone tries to drive to the west. Everything is blocked and there is no gas left.
00:09:05,407 Alexander: -We are at the gas station. All along the way, there were queues at the gas stations. There is a limit of 20 litres per car.
00:09:24,649 VO: -Hours pass, the kilometers do not. Anguish is palpable the radio keeps repeating in a loop the same warning messages.
00:09:37,210 Radio: Aerial alert. Everyone must hide in a shelter.
00:09:44,768 -We are in the middle of nowhere. There is a huge traffic jam. We just heard on the radio that there is an air alert, that we have to hide. We're right in the middle of the road and there's no detour, there's nothing.
00:10:19,599 VO: -In Geneva, Elvira has decided to take action. The Russian-born Swiss woman activates her contacts to work on a petition project. The text demands that Switzerland not to take sides and to abstain from any sanctions against Russia.
00:10:39,092 Elvira: -Hello, David. Did you read our petition? Second paragraph, we need to press hard on Swiss neutrality. The purpose of this petition is to make sure that Switzerland keeps its neutrality. Either we are neutral, or we are not. Sanctions against the Russian people are useless, because the soul of the Russians is so different it actually galvanizes them. Switzerland must remain neutral and play its role as a mediator between great powers.
11’08 Elvira Voskresenskaia
00:11:34,978 VO: -In Lausanne, Maryna can't stand still any longer, trying to get some news. This Saturday, she took time off from the restaurant. With her two children, they are preparing to go and protest for the international community to stop the war.
00:11:52,220 Maryna: We need sanctions, we need real actions, stop business in Russia, from the financial side. And the governments of different countries to help Ukraine with money, with military stuff, with military protection, because we need to protect our people.
00:12:13,331 VO: -Maryna and her family are going to Geneva. The gathering is planned under the windows of the UN. Hundreds of people are there with the colors of Ukraine. Maryna's son Yuri is 8 years old, but he is already very concerned by what is happening in in his country of origin.
00:12:39,446 Yuri: -I don't want Kyiv to be attacked. Many people are already dead. There are a lot of tanks.
12’46 Yuri, Maryna’s son
00:12:50,608 Crowd chanting: -Putin, murderer!
00:12:55,081 VO: -For Maryna, the demonstration is an opportunity to say what she thinks about the Russian president and to coordinate with other with other Ukrainians to organize the resistance.
00:13:05,150 Maryna: We feel sad because we cannot immediately help our families, but still we can discuss here about what to buy at least. The bulletproof vests, the helmets, and how to bring all the forces together.
00:13:26,009 VO: -Alexander arrives the end of his long journey. He stays in Ukraine, in the last town before Poland.
00:13:33,726 Alexander: -We have just entered Lviv and we hear the sirens. The sun rises. It took us 23 hours to go from Kyiv to Lviv. There is violent fighting all over Ukraine in dozens of big cities.
00:14:04,150 VO: -Alexander gives himself a few hours to work out what to do. Behind him, in Kiev, the panic grows with the bombings. Those who had thought they could stay are now stuck in a capital at war.