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Story in firsthand: Anastasiia Leontieva

In the photos, we see Anastasiia in Kyiv - and in Sintra

Today I want to tell the story of Russia's invasion of Ukraine through my eyes. I was born and grew up in Crimea. When I was 11 years old, Russia invaded and annexed the territory of my homeland, Crimea is still occupied today. After finishing school, I moved to the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, to study. Before the war started, I did an internship in the Ukrainian parliament and spent time with my friends.  

On 24 February, I woke up to explosions and terrible news. There were kilometre-long traffic jams outside the city, footage of explosions from various parts of Ukraine was shown on TV and martial law had been imposed. We were fetching water and packing 'emergency rucksacks' to be ready for anything. In the evening I had already left for a small village near Kyiv with my belongings for a couple of days to wait out all the action. As it turned out later, it would not last a couple of days but is still going on. So, I was in the village for a month. 

 We heard explosions and fighting in Kyiv, there was no food (especially meat and dairy products) in the shops, and we stocked up on water in case the dam was blown up. Evacuation trains were leaving Kyiv, but they were full of people. All this time I was sending letters to many universities in Europe so that I could get an invitation and leave without any problems with my documents.  

The first invitation I received was from the NOVA School of Law. After spending most of my savings, I bought a plane ticket from Warsaw to Lisbon. It was time to go to Kyiv to get on the train. After arriving just halfway through the day, I could hear explosions and feel the vibrations from the explosions, and an emergency alarm sounded outside several times. I packed my bags and left for the train station. From there I got to Lviv (a city in the western part of Ukraine). Then I took a bus to the Polish border, walked across it and reached the nearest town, Przemyśl. There, volunteers fed me and helped me arrange a ticket to Warsaw.  

Two days later I was in Warsaw. There I spent the night in a shelter for refugees, and the next day I flew to Lisbon. All this time I tried to find accommodation on special websites for refugees. I wanted to find at least a room, a place to sleep. Luckily, a man called Ricardo came to help me. When I landed in Lisbon, I got out of the airport, and I still didn't know where I was going to live or what was going to happen. Ricardo picked me up from the airport and took me to Barreiro. There he introduced me to a family of wonderful people, Bruno and Caroline.  

They were the people who helped me with everything - arranging documents, helping me with groceries, helping me with socialization and just keeping me company. They also introduced me to their friends Rui and Cristina. Christina is also from Ukraine, and we quickly found a common language. They provided me with accommodation, and I am immensely grateful to them. Without these people, it would have been very difficult for me, and I would have had many problems, I am glad I met them - here is Anastasiia in Sintra.

Then I met Margarida Lima Rego [Dean of NOVA School of Law] and she helped me with my schedule because in Ukraine I was in my second year and in Portugal I had to start all over again. I am grateful to our dean for her help and responsiveness. I started to attend courses and at the same time, I studied a distance learning course at a Ukrainian university. Because of the time difference, I had to get up at 5 in the morning to listen to the lectures online and to get to the university in Lisbon. I only started to receive my refugee benefits at the end of April, so I only had money (my savings) for basic food and a mobile connection. NOVA provided me with study materials, so I did not have to spend money on various stationery.  

I applied for a scholarship, but unfortunately, it was not approved - yet, while in in Portugal, I was able to do a successful internship at Miranda Alliance through the programme Inspiring together. In July, after the examination session, I had to return to Ukraine to process certain documents. Since it is a long way to Lisbon (our airports are closed and almost all the train tickets are sold out to get out of the country) and it is not cheap, I couldn’t still go back without knowing that I will be able to pay for my studies. 

 I'm now choosing courses and learning them at least from the materials in Moodle, but I can't take the exams online. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to resolve this issue. I liked Portugal very much, the people here are lovely, I will come back here and become a great legal professional! "

PS: The good news arrived, in the meantime, to Anastasiia's email: "I already have a scholarship, I can come back! Thank you, NOVA".