Being in post-flood Mullum at the moment is no walk in the park, but for recent Ukrainian arrival Igor Zorkin, Mullumbimby has been, for the last week, a paradise.
Even a Ukrainian local would need a degree in history to work out the political and border changes in Igor’s home town of Luhansk, known in Russian as Lugansk, and formerly known as Voroshilovgrad, which is a city in eastern Ukraine, in the disputed Donbas region.
Luhansk is currently the capital and administrative centre of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a breakaway State established in 2014 by pro-Russian separatists. Yet it’s not part of Russia and it sits in a kind of no man’s land between Russia, and Ukraine – a Johnny-in-the-middle.
English-speaking world knew more of the war
Igor’s daughter Alina has been living in Australia for 15 years and says the English-speaking world knew more of what was coming than the people at ground zero, and she was really scared for dad’s safety. ‘The whole world outside Russia and the Ukraine knew war was starting any day, so I quickly applied for his visa. I was crying on the phone to him every day – trying to convince him to leave his town and be ready as soon as we got a visa and tickets.’
Alina says Igor had to go to Kyiv (Kiev) to get a medical check up. Not only did he have -o cross the border from the republic to Ukraine, a passage that is only allowed once a month, he also had to fly out of Russia to get to Australia – which he did the day before the war began.
Once in Melbourne he spent a week in COVID quarantine before arriving in Mullum on March 7, a week after the deluge.
Mullum is wonderful
Though locally we are sad for Mullum, Igor thinks it’s wonderful. ‘Back home the roads are terrible, there’s no running hot water – in Kyiv yes, but not in our little town. I get paid $10 for the whole day. It’s a hard life for people. This is better for me here.’
Igor says that Mullum is also more friendly. ‘I’m really surprised that everyone on the streets says hello. It doesn’t happen in my country. If people don’t know each other, they don’t say hello.’
Igor says it is terribly difficult to see what is happening in Ukraine now – he has no family left there, but it is his home and it’s hard for him to witness what is going on.
Alina says she is not sure what will happen to her dad. He is currently on a parent visa for a year, but she hopes that he can stay. ‘It would have broken my heart if he didn’t leave in time and had stayed in Ukraine when the war started. I feel blessed that he is here with us now but my heart is bleeding for people in Ukraine – for mothers who have lost their kids, for families who leave their fathers and husbands behind and run away to save the children.
‘I hope and pray for the people in this war. In my eyes there is no such a thing as winning a war, as at the end of it all a lot of people will die, mothers whose sons will die fighting the war will never find peace in their lives and will never see their boys again.’