The smiling faces of Maryna and Vadym Korolov hide the terrible experiences they have endured in their escape to safety in Wales.
Maryna told Roger Bowen of what happened just one year ago in Kiev.
“I was aware of the sound of muffled explosions. Vadym woke me at 6am with the words ‘The war has started - we have three minutes to leave the apartment.’ It was the morning of February 24th 2022.”
Maryna Korolova is describing vividly the start of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.
The couple gently woke the boys Sam and Mark and helped them dress to prepare for their immediate departure. Heavily pregnant with their third child, Maryna took nothing with her but two bags which she had packed in preparation for the maternity hospital.
She continued: “At 6.10 am we were already driving along the Zhytomyr Highway and calling to friends and relatives to warn them. Our boys heard the sound of explosions, their eyes full of fear. My small son Sam said quietly ‘Mom! I can feel the bones in my body shaking!’. The world seemed to freeze at that time.
“What followed was a long journey: giving birth to baby Emmanuella in an air raid shelter, extreme fatigue, and an incredible desire to continue living and to help everyone. Yes, I remember very well how all of Ukraine became the most powerful call centre, with one heart.”
Maryna and Vadym radiate pride in their homeland and sadness for the people whose lives have been disrupted and hopes destroyed by this cruel war. Through a British friend in the Ukraine with connections in Crickhowell, the couple managed to escape safely from their war-torn country to a new life in Wales, settling in Llangynidr.
They speak with pride that they have created new life by having three children in the three different cities they have lived in since the war that started in 2014 has displaced them.
Maryna comes originally from Donetsk (formerly Hughesovka) founded by engineer John Hughes of Merthyr Tydfil who built the steelworks there around which the city developed. From that city she was pushed to Lviv and finally to Kiev.
Maryna and Vadim believe that the best way to assist their fellow Ukrainians is to raise funds for medicine and other necessities for those caught up in the conflict.
During the last few months the couple and their children have become a familiar and popular sight to Abergavenny Market visitors. Maryna sells beautifully decorated items in the style of her country (many of them done by her son) and Vadim makes freshly squeezed orange juice to sell to passers by.
The theme on the Korolov’s stall is blue and gold reflecting the colours of the Ukrainian flag. There is jewellery, bracelets and, wooden spoons, many with traditional motifs from their country. They are not priced; you give what you feel is appropriate.
Maryna and Vadym are touched by the generosity of market visitors. The Ukrainians are never without a smile for those who approach them and are only too pleased to tell locals about their glorious country.