A Ukrainian woman with Maltese residency has spoken of the “horror” of her journey from Ukraine to Romania, from where she returned to Malta.

Thanking the Maltese for their support, Elena Orlova, however, questioned why Ukrainians arriving here were still being made to comply with COVID restrictions when, in Romania, “they only asked about what help we needed”. 

Orlova, an orchestra conductor, was interviewed by video from her home in Birkirkara where she is in quarantine for 10 days. She has been living in Malta with her husband, also a musician, since 2018.

Photos taken by Orlova and her friend on their drive from Kyiv to the Romanian border.Photos taken by Orlova and her friend on their drive from Kyiv to the Romanian border.

When Russia launched its attack on February 24 at 5am, she was in Kyiv visiting her parents. Her husband was in Malta.

“I was woken up by the sound of bombing,” she recalled.

At first, she hesitated to leave the city.

'Difficult, dangerous' road trip

“Maybe it’s difficult to understand. In such dark times we all think about how to help, how to support, what is useful to do to help our country to stand, to survive, to win.”

But her husband insisted she return. The following night, she left.

“One friend of mine was going to the west border and offered to pick me up.”

They drove for two days to the Romanian border, passing scenes of war and destruction along the way.

“Our way was pretty difficult and dangerous. Some days, I went without sleep and food. Actually, since the war beginning, all of us are without sleep.”

She said she got slightly hurt at the border “but it’s not very serious, so, in general, I am ok”.

Surrounded by thousands desperately trying to cross into Romania, she broke down in tears and even considered returning to Kyiv.

I was standing at the border for about seven hours. I couldn’t breathe- Elena Orlova

Each time the border gate opened to take in a few people at a time, people pushed and screamed.

“I was standing at the border for about seven hours. I couldn’t breathe and my shoulder was harmed by pushing. It was so tight that it was impossible to get my phone to call my husband.

Romanian assistance

“When I managed to cross the Romanian border, I was so surprised. I saw a lot of police, ambulances, volunteers.

“They offered any help, they drove me to the city Piatra-Neamt for free, a three-hour drive from the border, to a comfortable cottage, where I spent two nights.

“They asked about all my needs, they fed me, cared for me and even gave me money on the way to Bucharest, where I boarded a plane…

“Nobody asked me for COVID test, or a green pass of COVID vaccination or PLF [passenger locator form]. They asked only about what help we needed…

“And, finally, I got to my ‘native’ Malta, at night [on February 28] and I was asked about PLF, about vaccination, about test. That’s all.

“I am a resident of Malta. I have a complete Maltese vaccination and a booster. But I was sent to quarantine without any other questions or sentiments,” she said.

[attach id="1163973" size="large" align="left" type="image"][/attach]

“So I have a question: is Malta really Europe? Because Europe accepts Ukrainians even without passports. Because many Ukrainian people run out without anything or only with those things they have time to take.”

Orlova said she had it relatively easy because, as a Maltese resident, she had guaranteed entry to Malta. But many Ukrainians had it much harder.

'Ease the strict COVID requirements'

“I just want to ask the governments of all countries: help the people,” she said as she called on the Maltese government to lift quarantine and ease the strict COVID requirements for those fleeing the trauma of war.

“To cancel quarantine for Ukrainians it’s easy. It doesn’t need thousands of euros but it is important for people who run from the war.

“Even to go out from the house and just to stand under the peaceful sky and breathe… And feel free, without hiding.

“I still shudder with any sound of fireworks or sound of planes in the sky and with any sudden sound outside.”

She was not even asking for help, she said, but about giving Ukrainians the basic relief of staying in Malta “if the government understands at least a bit of what horror we are breaking out of and what we feel”.

She said she wanted to express sincere gratitude to all Maltese citizens who support Ukrainians, “who help, who worry and who understand us.

“There are so many kind people here, in Malta. Dear friends you are great. 

“People in Ukraine experience now all the horrors of war… Our people spend days and nights in shelters…

“But the problem is that there are not enough shelters…”

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us