Middle East

Ukrainian takes refuge in Gaza from the war in her home country

Ukrainian citizen Victoria Saidem has sought refuge from the war in her own country by going to Gaza with her husband, despite it being under an Israel-led siege since 2007, Le Monde has reported. More than two million Palestinians live the besieged Gaza Strip, one of the most closed areas in the world.

“I don’t have a choice,” Saidem told the French newspaper. “My husband is from Gaza and his family can host us.”

She met her husband Ibrahim in Vinnytsia in Ukraine. She had been working in a pharmacy since she was 18 while studying. He went to Ukraine to study medicine. They married in 2020.

Although her husband had friends in Germany, which was easy to reach from Ukraine, he insisted that he wants to be a doctor, not a dish washer in a restaurant. Ibrahim also wanted to see his 90-year-old grandfather, who was going to have two major operations in Gaza. He passed away two weeks ago with his grandson beside him.

Victoria and Ibrahim took a bus to the Romanian border and eventually reached Bucharest. It was a difficult journey because Ibrahim was forced to stand in immigration queues for Arabs and Africans. They then flew to Cairo with tickets bought online by Victoria’s brother.

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It took them two days to get across North Sinai in a small bus. The young Ukrainian woman said that she was worried about the Egyptian police, as Palestinians are familiar with their bribery, violence and humiliating treatment; she feared for her valuables.

On 28 February, the couple reached the Rafah border crossing. “The Egyptian customs officers made sure that Victoria was accompanying me voluntarily,” explained Ibrahim. “When they saw that she was happy, they did not make a fuss.” They now live in Al-Bureij refugee camp near Gaza City surrounded by her husband’s extended family.

Le Monde noted that Victoria is not the only Ukrainian citizen in this situation. A charity in Gaza has reported that there are over 400 Ukrainian wives in the enclave with their children. The Ukrainian population in Gaza is now around 2,000 people. According to Ukrainian diplomats in Ramallah, there are quite a few in the occupied West Bank as well.

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