These sisters fled Afghanistan, now they concern conflict in Ukraine




“Now, we’re in the course of nowhere,” says Shagufa. “We simply got here out of a single trauma, and I believe we’re going to face one other trauma.”The pair are torn between their craving for the previous, the family members they left behind, and their fears for a deeply unsure future.Fazila, 26, and Shagufa, 24, are the youngest siblings in a big household. Members of the Hazara ethnic minority, their roots are in Bamyan, central Afghanistan.Regardless of the trials and tribulations of every day life in Afghanistan, the sisters describe their life earlier than final summer time as “the golden days.”They have been enrolled in college and their day jobs as flight attendants allowed them to journey extensively. At work, Fazila says she met everybody from former Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the Afghan pop star Aryana Sayeed.When the Taliban took over Kabul on August 15, 2021, they felt they’d no alternative however to go away.”We had no different choice,” recollects Shagufa. “We needed to catch a flight and flee. And that was it. If we had some other choice, we might positively select another choice slightly than be a refugee or find yourself right here.”The sisters supposed to go to Islamabad in Pakistan however arrived at Kabul’s airport too late. They discovered themselves caught up within the chaos of 1000’s of individuals making an attempt to get overseas.”The sensation at the moment was horrifying,” says Shagufa, describing the massive crowds of Afghans, all determined to flee. “We have been all terrified and clueless, as a result of we did not know the place we have been going.”The sisters say that, along with some work colleagues, they made their method to a airplane parked on a distant a part of the tarmac. They’d no thought the place it was headed till minutes earlier than take-off.”We have been hopeful. It is like, ‘Ah, lastly! We made it,'” says Shagufa, sighing and dropping her head in mock exaggeration.However the reduction of escaping hazard quickly gave method to the arduous actuality of life as an asylum-seeker in a wierd nation.A brand new life in UkraineFazila and Shagufa have been amongst a bunch of 370 Afghans who arrived in Ukraine on evacuation flights in August 2021, in accordance with Ukraine’s State Migration Service. Definitive figures are arduous to come back by, however activists estimate that round 5,000 Afghans stay in Ukraine.On arrival within the nation — one which they’d by no means been to earlier than — they are saying authorities took them to a housing facility for migrants some two hours north of Kyiv, near the border with Belarus.Two weeks later, due to the assistance of a good friend who works for a Ukrainian airline, they have been in a position to transfer right into a furnished condominium in a modest housing block on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv.However the sisters say they now doubt whether or not leaving Afghanistan was the fitting choice.”If I might know that residing life right here, (that) it might be such a problem and so tough, I might not select to be (a) refugee. Imagine me. By no means,” says Shagufa.The Haidary sisters have filed for asylum in Ukraine and predict a call inside weeks.However with their software nonetheless pending, they are saying they’ve struggled to search out work of their area — regardless of having Ukrainian documentation permitting them to get jobs. They are saying they’re solely in a position to afford the lease on their condominium with assist from an uncle who lives in Germany.Past an preliminary grant of three,200 Ukrainian hryvnia (round US $112) after they first arrived in Ukraine, they are saying they’ve confronted constant indifference from the UN Refugee Company, UNHCR.”They’re pretending that they’re serving to us,” stated Shagufa. “However in actuality, it is nothing. Once you wish to go to them or … whenever you wish to speak with them … it’s very totally different.”In a press release to CNN, Victoria Andrievska, a spokesperson for UNHCR Ukraine, stated that it “gives authorized help to some 300 Afghan asylum seekers, and in addition gives monetary assist within the type of an allowance granted for newly arrived asylum seekers.”UNHCR additionally clarified that whereas it expresses “solidarity” with nations that took in Afghans final summer time, it “was not concerned within the evacuation of Afghan residents who’ve assisted overseas governments or army forces in Afghanistan,” and that it was not accountable for visa preparations.And but regardless of the hardship, indicators of pleasure — and the power that the sisters give one another — stay.When, at first of our go to, Fazila introduces herself and says she lives in Kabul, the sisters break down in uncontrollable giggles. Shagufa prods her with delight: “You reside in Kabul?!”Uncertainty amid tensions with RussiaNow the sisters face the identical uncertainty as everybody else in Kyiv. For the second, issues are calm and life is happening as common, however the potential of imminent conflict is rising — at the very least in accordance with overseas leaders.US President Joe Biden stated Tuesday that Russia has greater than 150,000 troops massed on three sides of Ukraine.Russia denies that it’s planning to assault, however the USA believes an invasion might be underway even earlier than the Winter Olympics in Beijing finish later this week.Current intelligence from the US and its allies suggests Kyiv might be amongst Russia’s targets.”The worst a part of that is (how) to deal with our household in Kabul,” says Fazila. “They’re having their very own issues in Kabul as properly. Nevertheless it hurts extra that they thought that we’re secure right here.”To cease their mom, a widow, from worrying about them, their siblings have instituted a “household protocol” barring their mom from watching the information.”Simply my brothers know what’s occurring right here,” says Shagufa. “However my mom, no. We’re pretending that the whole lot is nice, the whole lot is ok. In fact, she is a mom. She has her personal fears relating to us, particularly for her two ladies. “”We have been apprehensive about them,” says Fazila. “And now we’re apprehensive about them, and as properly, ourselves.”If the invasion does come, they don’t have any plans for escape. They are saying they’re too frightened to attempt to cross into Poland or one other close by nation.”We aren’t courageous sufficient to cross the border, in any other case we might like to go there,” says Shagufa.The sisters say that they’ve had no assurances of assist from the UN.UNHCR instructed CNN it acknowledges the Haidary sisters’ “anxiousness,” together with that of different Ukrainians; it stated it was urging the Ukrainian authorities to incorporate refugees in its contingency planning.Once they escaped from Kabul, the sisters thought they have been among the many fortunate few. Now they are not so certain.”I’m not prepared once more to undergo it,” says Shugufa.Journalist Olga Voitovych contributed to this report. .