A Ukrainian serviceman helps evacuees gathered under a destroyed bridge, as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 7, 2022.
Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images
An elderly Ukrainian woman recounted her experiences fleeing Russian invaders twice before she died.Kateryna Lihusha told The Wall Street Journal that she first fled home as a baby in 1932.Lihusha castigated Vladimir Putin and his “bastards” in an open letter before she died this year.
A Ukrainian nonagenarian who died earlier this year was forced to flee Russian invaders twice throughout her life — first when she was a baby and then again in the final year of her life.
Kateryna Lihusha recounted her story to The Wall Street Journal last year soon after she left Ukraine following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion in February 2022.
Before she died, Lihusha was among the millions of Ukrainians who were displaced by the war and are now scattered throughout Europe and beyond.
In the last months of her life, Lihusha penned an open letter to the country of Poland, thanking its people for taking her in amid the conflict, and lambasting Putin and his cronies in the process, the Journal reported.
“Could I have ever imagined ending up at the Polish border, that Putin’s bastards would ruin my old age, scatter my grandchildren all over Europe, and mutilate Ukraine?” she wrote.
Lihusha’s life story exemplifies the cost of Russia’s centuries-long aim to control Ukraine and strip the country of its independence, a violent quest that has bred generations of Ukrainians who time and time again are forced to choose between survival and home.
Her tale dates back to the late 1920s, when Soviet authorities stripped Lihusha’s ancestors of their land in the eastern Donbas region and forced them onto a collective farm, according to The Journal. In the following years, the Soviets would seek Ukrainian grain to sell abroad in a plot that ultimately resulted in widespread famine and millions of deaths across Ukraine.
The first time Lihusha fled Russian invaders was as a baby in her mother’s arms in 1932, the Journal reported. Her family left their home in an eastern Ukrainian village for the nearby city of Horlivka after Soviet authorities took control of the village’s grain supply.
Many of her relatives who stayed behind would later die of hunger, Lihusha and her daughter told the outlet.
During World War II, Lihusha and her family returned home to their village. But in the post-war years, Ukraine was hit by a wave of Russification that led to a dwindling Ukrainian culture in the country, the Journal reported. Lihusha taught Ukrainian language and literature in the village.
When Ukraine held a referendum for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Lihusha’s daughter, Valentyna Pryshchepa, told the Journal that she convinced all her family members to vote yes.
Lihusha’s family bought her a house near Kyiv in 2004 where she lived until Russian troops invaded last year. Once again, she was forced to flee her home. Lihusha and her daughter went to Poland, they told the Journal.
The village from which she first fled as a baby is now near the frontlines of fighting in the Donbas area, according to the outlet.
“I have nothing left here, only my memories,” she told the Journal in a spring 2022 interview.
Lihusha died a year later of kidney disease. She is buried next to her husband in a cemetery near Kyiv, the outlet reported.