Ukrainian woman's mission after brother's death

time:2023-06-09 05:00:25source:NBC News author:Press center9

A Ukrainian woman says she feels it is her mission in life to help others from her country after losing her soldier brother in the war.

Antonina spent weeks trying to trace 31-year-old Ivan before finding out from a Russian website he was dead.

She believes he could have been taken hostage and tortured but she does not know for certain.

Despite her grief, she is working in a refugee centre in Shropshire helping other people from her community.

Antonina, who was an economist in Ukraine, explained she had been close to her brother who was a carpenter near Kyiv.

"Everyone knew him, he was very helpful. He was my son's godfather, he was my best friend," said the 28-year-old.

When the war began, Ivan was called up to fight. Initially he was in regular telephone contact with family members who remained in Ukraine and Antonina, who moved to Shrewsbury in Shropshire with her husband and son.

However, he was then moved to a "hotspot" but could not say where, she said.

"He was not allowed to say anything at all. So basically I just asked 'how are you?' And he would say 'I'm fine, I'm OK, we have everything, don't worry'."

But he began disappearing without contact for several days and by October his family could not trace him.

"Then I got a message from my mum... the police came to her house and said he was reported missing," said Antonina.

"We were shocked but at the same time when you don't know whether he's dead or he's kept somewhere as a hostage, you still have hope."

Antonina and her family searched social media sites for missing Ukrainian people and after several weeks she said she found an image of Ivan on a Russian site.

"A terrible, terrible picture of his dead body. I knew that it was him because I can recognise a person who I've known throughout my life. I remember everything because we were very close."

She said next to his body were his official documents and there were biographical details written on the site which she feared only he could have disclosed.

"I concluded that he was probably alive... to tell all of that and obviously, because he was dead, they probably tortured him to death."

Antonina has since been one of seven Ukrainian people employed by the charity Shropshire Supports Refugees, which approached her after she helped translate for others at the hub.

"You feel like you are doing something important, not for yourself but to help others. And that makes you feel like you've accomplished something," she said.

The centre in Shrewsbury has helped about 600 Ukrainian refugees since the war began and its chief executive Amanda Jones praised Antonina's strength.

"Antonina, considering the trauma she's going through at the moment, is extraordinarily strong," she said.

As the first anniversary of the war nears, Antonina said she had tried to cope by showing kindness to others but was desperate for the war to end.

"I cannot believe that it's been a year. I haven't been home for this long time. I haven't seen my family," she added.

"I couldn't even make it to my brother's funeral - but I was there online, so I was kind of present. It was very hard to see my mum."

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