I WILL NOT RETURN TO UKRAINE: why a manager from Horlivka chose emigration
Artwork: Olena Burdeina (FA_Photo) via Photoshop
Six million Ukrainians are fleeing the war outside of Ukraine. A little more than four of them are in the European Union. This was told by demographer Ella Libanova. And every year of staying abroad is not in favor of returning home.
Even now, many of those who have left do not plan to return after the end of hostilities. Why? Everyone has their own reasons, resentments, and predictions about the country’s future. Huxleў publishes stories of heroes who left and returned, as well as those who do not plan to return to Ukraine.
A MAN IS LIKE A VINE
Dmytro Motsyk (name and surname changed at the request of the hero), 39, left Kyiv region. He was born in Horlivka, Donetsk region. Since March 2023, he has been living in Switzerland.
The way the full-scale invasion scattered the whole family in the first week is quite a show. My wife and daughter went to Odesa on business a week before the 24th, my son and his mother went to Egypt, and my parents left everything there after Horlivka was occupied in 2014 and moved to a village between Izyum and Sviatohirsk.
When it all started, we had no plan and no savings. But at the first opportunity, my wife and daughter went abroad — they stayed with strangers for two weeks in Romania, then in Austria, which they didn’t like, and finally made it to Switzerland. I came to Odesa because my disabled mother-in-law needed care. Here I helped IDPs and the military and worked remotely for a Kyiv company.
When I returned to my rented apartment in the Kyiv region in April, only my car was parked at the entrance, and only a few windows in the house were lit. This was in great contrast to Odesa, where the war was not so much felt at that time, and shops and cafes were open. Later I persuaded my parents to leave, but the next day the shelling started in the village.
For two months I could not bring them to their senses, because for the second time everything was over — they left the apiary, the garden, the chicken coop, the vegetable garden, everything that helped them to support themselves. Now my parents live in Poltava region, and again everything is from scratch… They did not want to live in the west of the country — they wanted to be closer to their native places.
The departure of people nine years ago and last year are different stories. Back then, no funds helped with humanitarian aid, they could only scratch the IDPs’ cars, break their mirrors, write nasty things, or not rent their apartments. But even in 2022, there were stories. I remember coming to the market with my mother, she was «chuckling» about something, and the seller immediately commented: «Oh, she’s chuckling! Luhandons have arrived».
Until December 2022, I had no plans to leave at all. But then I began to look at the situation realistically: the war won’t end tomorrow, my wife’s business had to be closed, and distance doesn’t have a positive effect on relationships. In addition, the management changed and demanded that I stay in the office.
Every time I was stopped at a checkpoint, it took about twenty minutes, given my Horlivka area of residence: «Give me your phone. Who does your family live in Horlivka? Who do you know there?» Despite the fact that I am wearing an embroidered shirt in my passport photo and the last time I was in my hometown was in 2014.
All this was not very pleasant and very exhausting. In addition, I realized that I was a man without a home. I could either start over in Ukraine or abroad. I chose the second option.
This spring I came to Switzerland. Using a legal opportunity, I spent three months collecting documents. It was my first trip to Europe. At first, I thought it would be short-lived — it would be over soon, and we would be back in Crimea in the summer. Then I realized: stop clinging to the past, it’s time to live now. It’s easier to adapt, to find new friends and favorite places.
My English was good, but I had zero French, which was necessary here. That’s why I took courses for four hours a day. Now I have a basic level. The Swiss are very appreciative when they learn that this is my fourth language. And they will never tell their countrymen in a rude way that you are some kind of inferior Swiss because you speak French and not German. In Ukraine, it’s the opposite.
I suppose I could return to Ukraine. But for my family, this is not the best option, only if things don’t work out here at all. My son is happy to attend school, where the teaching methods are interesting and the teachers are well paid.
By the way, his teacher speaks four foreign languages. I am impressed that no matter what you do, you will be respected. I am generally treated better here than in my home country. Since we travel a lot in Switzerland, we see how beautiful it is wherever we go. Here, we are 80 kilometers away from Kyiv, and we have residential villages with no infrastructure.
I get a kick out of their long-term planning, which is disciplining. For example, a week after the end of the school year, my son had a schedule for the next one, with vacation dates. If you didn’t notify the doctor in time to cancel the appointment, you would get a fine of 60 francs.
There is an interesting point about the attitude of right-wing Swiss towards Russia. They do not support the war, but they are working with the Russians and will probably continue to do so. In their understanding, Russia has turned against the United States, an empire that spreads wars and emigration crises around the world, which European countries have to deal with.
What can’t I get used to? Cucumbers with vinegar and the fact that everywhere, even in cafes, people blow their noses. Seriously, there is a lot to work on in the service sector. It’s not easy to find a job — I know the story of a girl who sent more than 600 resumes before she got a job. And a business school professor told me that he would hardly have found anything if he had sent less than 150 requests.
Frankly speaking, we are ahead of Switzerland in many ways. We just need the laws to work at all levels, to go our own way, and that’s it! Although I understand that it will be difficult to achieve the power that Ukraine had in the next 10–15 years.
Do I feel nostalgic? I realize that everything I miss remains unchanged only in my memory. And that a person can take root anywhere. It’s like our family grapes. My grandfather planted it in Horlivka, then my parents transplanted a bush in the village they left last year.
And next spring, my father wants to go back there, dig up the grapes and plant them in his yard in Poltava region. I hope the village will be demined by then. And the grapes will bear fruit later.