A Manitoba man who made it out of war-torn Ukraine and home to Canada calls his safe return “a living dream.”
Last week, Nikita Sereda, who was in Ukraine studying to become a priest, was waiting for any train that could take him to the Polish border. On Monday morning, he touched down in Winnipeg.
“It’s something I’d never seen in my life,” Sereda told Global News about his experience fleeing the country.
“The train was full to capacity — a lot of kids, a lot of moms. It’s a 12- to 13-hour journey from one side of the country to the other, and people were taking turns to sit and stand…. It was a long time.”
That trek came after a six-hour wait standing in line, waiting for a spot on the train.
“Today, when I went on the shuttle from the hotel, in my head, I thought, ‘Is this a dream or something?’
“I still couldn’t believe that I made the journey back home.”
Another person feeling relief about Sereda’s safe arrival is his mother, Yolanta, who said she felt powerless trying to follow her son’s journey via social media messages.
“It was hard because you can’t do anything from here,” she said.
“Basically, as a mother, I felt completely useless. He’s there kind of a thousand miles away. I’m here and I can’t do anything — about all that I can do is moral support, (tell him to) stay strong.”
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The mother and son connected via text messages, phone calls, Snapchat, and whatever other methods they could find with the sketchy cell reception while Nikita was on the move. Yolanta said she was slightly more relaxed when he arrived at an aunt’s house before embarking on the cross-country rail journey, but the situation was still very unpredictable.
Yolanta said growing up in the former Soviet Union, she knows how the region was affected by the Second World War and is saddened to see similar destruction in 2022.
“Knowing this is happening in the 21st Century … my brain just can’t wrap around it,” she said.
“I’m very emotional. You’re shaking inside, and just to see him and touch him… (I’m) talking to him and it’s one thing, but to have him in my hands — he’s my baby. Doesn’t matter how old he will be, he’s my baby.”
Nikita Sereda, who was born in Manitoba, plans to head back to his mother’s home in Yorkton, Sask., where his friends have planned a welcome-home party for him.
“The number one reason I’m proud to be Canadian is that we don’t have to worry about this stuff,” he said, “about a neighbouring country invading.”