‘You just keep going’: This Ukrainian family is back together in Lviv but they miss their hometown of Kharkiv

Over the last few months, Russia has intensified its assault on the Kharkiv region. It has also intensified its missile and drone attacks on Kharkiv city. Many Ukrainians living near the border with Russia, in the Kharkiv region are fleeing, seeking safety further west.

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Igor Krolevets and Tatiana Krolevets, both dentists, own a clinic in Kharkiv, Ukraine, which they continue to maintain, despite the dangers of war.

The couple and their young son, Danilo, headed west shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022. 

They were separated at first because Tatiana Krolevets took Danilo to the Netherlands. Igor Krolevets couldn’t join them because it’s illegal for a Ukrainian man of conscription age to leave the country. 

So, Igor Krolevets sought refuge in Lviv. After a year and a half apart, the family was reunited in Lviv. 

“Kharkiv is my city, it’s always going to be my hometown,” Igor Krolevets said.

But back in Kharkiv, things are volatile. Russia is building up its forces near the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine, according to Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military.

In recent months, Russia has captured some villages in the Kharkiv region, and it’s also intensified its bombardment of Kharkiv city. More than 10,000 civilians have been evacuated from the Kharkiv region since Russia’s renewed assault there, according to Kharkiv’s governor, Oleh Syniehubov. 

Many others left the region more than two years ago, soon after the war started.

Before then, the Krolevets said, they felt that there was no way they could get up and leave the city. 

“It was not a really easy decision because the first day, it was feeling like the whole world fell down. And it was terrifying, and we didn’t know where to go,” Tatiana Krolovet said.

For her husband, being separated from his family, he said, felt like part of him “was being cut off.” 

In the Netherlands, Tatiana Krolevets said, she was in a state of fogginess for several months.

“You just keep going and trying to keep yourself together.”

Things changed when she found a job as an orthodontist’s assistant.

“That was kind of a miracle because I was doing what I liked the most, and it helped because, otherwise, I don’t know what I would’ve done there,” she said.

Likewise, Igor Krolevets, who at first volunteered to help sort and deliver medical aid that came from abroad, got his first job as a dentist in Lviv after a few months.

Igor Krolevets worked for two years at three clinics until he decided to open his own clinic in Lviv last year. 

“I wanted to make sure that when my wife returned, she would have a place to return to,” he said.

Until a few months ago, Igor Krolevets often made 13-hour journeys a few times a month to treat patients at their Kharkiv dental clinic. 

Today, Igor Krolevets still travels to Kharkiv, despite feeling safer in Lviv — though only about once a month.

“Yes, it’s louder there, it’s certainly not as safe there as it is here in Lviv,” Igor Krolevets said, describing the air raid sirens that constantly play throughout the city.

Tatiana Krolevets said she worries for her husband’s safety when he goes to Kharkiv, but she understands what draws him back. 

For them, their hearts will always be with Kharkiv.

“If you ask me what I would do if tomorrow the war ends, I would go back to Kharkiv, even though I know that it’s really close to the Russian border,” Tatiana Krolevets said.

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