Why Some Ukrainian Women Are Leaving Germany: Going Home To a Country at War

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Asked about their reasons for going home, 40 percent say the situation in their country has improved significantly, the study by the UN Refugee Agency found. The survey also showed that around one in 10 people return because they want to go back to family members, while others want to return to work because money is tight.

On the evening of the third day after her departure from Reutlingen, Inna Dorokhina stops, annoyed, at the end of a gigantic traffic jam on the side of the road. There are still 13 kilometers to go until the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing at Budomierz-Hrushiv. “This is the line for everyone who wants to bring a used car to Ukraine,” she learns through the rolled-down window as she drives past parked cars.

Once all the papers have been checked twice at 9:29 p.m. and the Toyota is allowed to pass the Ukrainian barrier gate, all the tension disappears from Dorokhina’s face. She seems totally relieved. “I really just want to let out a scream,” she says. She then takes a deep breath, calls her father and utters a single sentence: “I’m in Ukraine.”

She writes at the same time to her son Sasha on WhatsApp. “I’m in Ukraine.”

The 16-year-old stayed behind in Reutlingen. “He’ll have a better future there,” she says, “a safe life.” She describes how Sasha became more determined and independent after arriving in Germany. “It used to be hard to motivate him,” she says, adding that the fresh start has done him good.

She says that staying in Germany had been his idea. And that his aunt is supporting him. Sasha also fell in love, an additional factor. He moved in with a teacher couple and goes to high school. In the afternoons, he goes to the community pool. Dorokhina says everything has been arranged with the youth welfare office in Germany. At first, Dorokhina had been skeptical. When she heard about the arrangement initially, she first had to be persuaded.

“It’s about him, not me,” she says. “I have to let him do it.”

Dorokhina still has 451 kilometers to go before she reaches Vinnytsia. The white SUV rolls past tank traps and abandoned checkpoints. Some sandbags are already bursting open. Dorokhina accelerates. She opens up a bit more, also about the depression she had in Germany at the beginning. She says she had to force herself to go jogging. After a while, she says she was able to sleep better. She sat in on German classes four afternoons a week, adding structure to her days.

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