Ukrainian student escapes war, finds new home in Bexley

(photo courtesy by Polina Tarasun)
Freshman Polina Tarasun (left) with her mother and
brother at their new home in Bexley.

The sirens blaring all around, people rapidly gathering essential items and scrambling to the safety of a bunker as planes soar overhead. Waiting, waiting, waiting…waiting to know when it’s safe to go back home, only to realize it’s time to flee.

Freshman Polina Tarasun, a Ukrainian refugee, fled to Bexley when she was only 14-years-old with her mom, brother and two bags full of her personal belongings. She said she was forced to leave her father, who stayed to fight in the war, her friends, who she might never see again and her cherished home.

Tarasun said she clearly remembers the morning of Feb. 24, the day the war started with Russia and the day that changed her life forever.

“When I woke up, I didn’t know what had happened,” Tarasun said. “My parents and brother had started packing things like money, clothes and passports, and my mom and brother ran to the store to buy food and medicine.”

Tarasun explained after the war started in Ukraine, sirens would go off alerting them to get to the nearest bunker, which was five minutes from her home and located underneath a school.

“It was scary because everyone was running and at night we had to turn off all our electricity so Russia couldn’t find and bomb us,” Tarasun said. “It was like a horror movie. It was really dark and quiet, and sometimes I would hear or imagine hearing a bomb falling or a plane flying by.”

She and her family retreated to the bunker a total of 10 times over two days, each lasting anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours, Tarasun explained. She said the bunker was very small and bare, with about 30 people in the bunker with her family.

“It was a very bad bunker because there was only one exit, and if a bomb was dropped on the school, then the whole bunker would collapse,” Tarasun said.

Tarasun explained her family decided to move to Poland two days after the war with Russia began Thursday Feb. 24, 2022. Tarasun said they had been trying to obtain residence visas to the U.S.for many years, but were never able to get them.

The family started by driving to Poland, but the traffic was so severe that they decided to begin walking.

“We walked about seven kilometers to Poland carrying all of our baggage and food,” Tarasun said. “If we had stayed in the line of traffic, we would’ve waited for five or six days.”

After finally arriving in Poland, her family had to wait in line for 10 hours before entering the country, she said.

Tarasun said in Poland, her family stayed with a friend of her parents for one week, then lived with a sponsor for another three weeks.

“For the first three days in Poland, when I would try to sleep, I would hear things like the siren and think we needed to go to the bunker,” Tarasun said.

She explained that after living in Poland for one month, they finally received their visas for the U.S. and flew to Chicago and then Columbus.

Tarasun said her grandparents and aunt have lived in Columbus for the past 20 years, which is why they decided to live in Bexley. She added that she lives in an apartment with her mom within Bexley, and her brother is studying at Ohio University.

Prior to the war in Ukraine, Tarasun said she talked a lot with her friends and family about the war and what might happen, but nobody expected an outcome this severe.

“I didn’t imagine the war to be like this,” Tarasun said. “Everyone thought we would go back to school in a few weeks and that the war would only be three or four days long. No one imagined it happening for one year.”

Tarasun explained she used to talk to her dad every day, but it is getting harder to communicate with him and her other loved ones who are still in Ukraine.

“There is a seven hour time difference, which can make talking to people in Ukraine hard,” Tarasun said. “Also, sometimes we can’t talk to them at all because the electronic stations get bombed and they lose power.”

Tarasun said it was very difficult leaving her dad, friends and other family members in Ukraine, but she is hopeful that she will meet up with them again someday soon.

“The hardest part of going away was leaving my friends and family,” Tarasun said. “I couldn’t say goodbye to my friends and I miss them all very much.”



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Bromley Phay
Bromley Phay is a senior at Bexley High School and is a Co-editor for The Torch. Outside of The Torch, he plays tennis for the high school and is involved in Key Club and Environmental Club.