Na Slovensku aj po anglicky: Olesya Tsybulko

Text Jeremy Hill

Olesya Tsybulko’s story unfolds against the backdrop of war-torn Donetsk, Ukraine. Fleeing the conflict in 2014, Olesya, along with her son, embarked on a journey to Slovakia. In this interview, she shares her experiences of displacement, integration, and dreams for the future.

Growing up in Donetsk, Olesya enjoyed the coziness of her city. However, the eruption of war in 2014 shattered the illusion of stability. Living amid protests and the ominous Russian propaganda, Olesya actively participated in peaceful demonstrations until it became evident that a more assertive response was necessary.

In the face of mounting danger, Olesya and her friends organized a volunteer effort, creating a call center to coordinate support for those willing to fight for Ukraine. Despite facing challenges and dangers, they rallied to supply Ukrainian soldiers with essentials. The situation escalated in May 2014, prompting Olesya and her son to leave Donetsk for their safety.

Life in Exile

As a political refugee, Olesya continued her commitment to Ukraine’s well-being. She engaged in parliamentary work, focusing on veteran affairs, refugees, and occupied territories. However, the war persisted, leading to her decision to leave for Slovakia in 2022.

The decision to move to Slovakia was swift and guided by the urgency of the situation. Crossing the border was an ordeal, with long lines and sleepless nights. Olesya arrived in Slovakia in February 2022, seeking safety and a new beginning for her family.

Integration Challenges

Adjusting to life in Slovakia presented both challenges and surprises. The warm reception from Slovaks was heartening, with many expressing support and empathy. However, the uncertainty of the political landscape posed concerns for Olesya, emphasizing the fragile nature of her newfound security.

Olesya appreciates Slovak culture, albeit finding certain aspects, like traditional foods, to be an acquired taste. She engages in local activities, such as quiz nights at pubs, and enjoys exploring Slovakia’s natural beauty, including visits to places like ice caves and Slovak Paradise National Park.

Dreams for the Future

Despite the challenges, Olesya remains resilient. Her dream is to contribute to Ukraine’s development and reforms, ideally working in EU institutions. The uncertainty of the war’s resolution keeps her grounded, acknowledging the possibility of returning home if Ukraine finds stability within the EU.

Olesya Tsybulko’s journey reflects the resilience of those forced to leave their homes due to conflict. Her determination to contribute to positive change, whether in Slovakia or Ukraine, underscores the enduring human spirit in the face of adversity. As she dreams of a future where Ukraine finds its place in the EU, Olesya’s story is a testament to the strength of hope in the midst of uncertainty.

Thank you to my guest Olesya Tsybulko

Theme song: Cristian Estrella – 25 cóndores índigos rumbo a Marte (intro version) . You can find Cristian’s work online at:

Na Slovensku aj po anglicky is the podcast of Jeremy Hill who in 2020, eleven years after he arrived in Slovakia, came up with the idea for the show. In it, he shares interesting and important stories, mostly from the perspective of migrants living in Slovakia.

The podcast is financialy supported by [fjúžn]/Nadácia Milana Šimečku

Thank you also to ⁠⁠⁠Kult Minor⁠⁠⁠.

Realized with the financial support of the Fund for the Support of the Culture of National Minorities

Realizované s finančnou podporou Fondu na podporu kultúry národnostných menšín

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