In a camp in Zaporizhzhia, UkraineFor those displaced by the war, the two siblings recall the harrowing journey they made from their village, which was being bombed by the Russian army.
Maria Zalata, 14, and her brother, Dimetro Zalata, 17, traveled for two days from their village of Wesele to reach the Ukrainian-controlled region of Zaporizhzhya.
The trip was “terrible,” DiMetro told ABC News reporter Britt Kleinette. His father left behind to guard the family home, pets, and garden against Russian soldiers.
The war in Ukraine, which hit its six-month mark on Wednesday, devastated the lives and aspirations of millions of young people like Maria and Dimetro. UNICEF estimates that 5 million Ukrainian children are living in and out of the country refugees Humanitarian aid is needed abroad.
To reach Zaporizhzhia, Maria and Dymtro slept in a car and had to be very careful about their movements. He bought groceries at a store that sold Russian products, he said.
They went through a checkpoint where their phones were checked, and they had to erase all the pictures that had Ukrainian symbols.
When they finally arrived in Zaporizhzhya and saw the flag of Ukraine, they jumped with joy.
“I am very happy to be here with my soldiers,” said Maria. “I’m crying now.” He said that his mother, and another woman they were with, also burst into tears. “It is such a great pleasure that we can be in the Ukrainian Free Zone.”
“I feel like I’ve found my home,” she said.
Because of the constant presence of Russian soldiers, she said, it was very uncomfortable to live in her village. “We are very upset,” she said of the business.
She wants her village to be free soon, so that her family can come back. She told ABC News that she wanted to see the colors of Ukraine’s flag, yellow and blue, and their symbols, return to the village.
The future is still uncertain. They dream of freedom, and dream of reuniting with their father.
“We hope everyone remains strong, and we will defeat Russia,” she said.
They plan to move to Kyiv and then move to the western part of Ukraine, where their family is based. Maria plans to start school in September, as her school in Wesel is occupied by the Russians.
But first, they will stay in a camp run by volunteers for a few more days.
“We’re so happy that people are helping us. We’re so grateful,” Maria said.