A year after invasion, Ukrainian refugees unsure when they’ll go home


CHICAGO – When the Russian rockets started flying over his region of Ukraine, Nazar Volianiuk, his wife and three kids hastily packed clothes, piled into two cars and fled to the Polish border. 

They waited two frightening days in line at a crossing clogged with refugees, scrambling for cover in a roadside forest amid the scream of air raid sirens.

Like many who fled Russia’s invasion a year ago, Volianiuk, 31, and his wife, Natalia, 32, figured it would be safe to return to their home in Lutsk, Ukraine, after a few months. 

Today, Volianiuk is settled in a tidy suburban apartment outside Chicago, with a cable company job, kids in school and a supportive community – and no desire to return to Ukraine, even when the conflict ends.

“No chance,” he said, drinking tea in his Chicago apartment on a recent day. “We want to stay here.”

Ukrainian refugees Nazar Volianiuk, 31, his wife Natalia Voianuik, 32 and three children stand in front of their apartment in Chicago.

One year after Russia’s invasion sparked Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, more than 8 million refugees are scattered in Europe, the U.S. and beyond. As the conflict they fled grinds on, their new roots grow deeper. 

Amid new jobs, languages and lives hangs a consequential question: Not just when to go home, but whether. 

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