A Ukrainian refugee who fled his homeland due to the ongoing Russian invasion says he’s looking forward to starting a new life in Argentina’s north.
Bogdan Holovchak, one of the first Ukrainian refugees to arrive in the country, arrived in Posadas, Misiones Province, on Wednesday. And despite having no previous connection to Argentina – other than a single friend – he says he’s looking forward to “being a part of society” again.
The 37-year-old landed at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires last Saturday on a humanitarian flight organised by the Solidaire NGO, which is run by Argentine pilot and film director Enrique Piñeyro.
He was joined by four other individuals, all of whom entered Argentina as tourists and are now beginning the process of formally becoming refugees.
Fellow traveller Alina, who embarked upon the long journey with her two children, was reunited with a second uncle, who is originally from the city of Kharkiv and has been living in Argentina for several years.
The final passenger, 72-year-old Irina was welcomed by her daughter and two granddaughters, whom she had not seen since 2019.
To the north
Holovchak, however, is the only one of the five travellers who, just a few days after arriving in the country, got back on a plane.
Unlike the other four, Bogdan – who was unable to enlist in the Army due to medical reasons – has no relatives in Argentina. His partner and mother are still in Ukraine, according to local news reports.
Upon his arrival in Buenos Aires last Saturday, Holovchak initially stayed at the flat of journalist and press correspondent Fernando Ortega Zabala, who offered to help the Ukrainian while he began the paperwork to become a refugee.
The journalist told a local radio station this week that Bogdan “couldn't join the Army because he has a small problem with his leg, so he decided to escape, leaving his mother and girlfriend in his country."
Holovchak, who speaks English and Italian (but as yet no Spanish), has previously worked in the tourism industry, as a bank clerk and as a freelance journalist.
Holovchak comes from a city called Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine, where he was based until Russia’s missiles started hitting Ukraine.
The town was home to a large Ukrainian population that fled there from the east to escape the constant threat of attacks on the Russian border. But an upsurge in bombing led the mayor of the region to call for residents to leave immediately for fear of further attacks on May 5.
Bogdan is one of more than eight million people who have been displaced from their homes by the Russian invasion.
Though just five arrived on last weekend’s flight to Argentina, others have already travelled by their own means. Between 350,000 and 400,000 Ukrainians live in the country as a result of various waves of migration, according to government figures.
Upon his arrival in Misiones, Bogdan was received by the provincial Governor Oscar Herrera Ahuad, and representatives of the local Ukrainian community. The local government has opened its arms to fleeing refugees and even has an Honorary Ukrainian Consulate.
"I want to be part of the society," the new arrival told Herrera Ahuad emotionally, promising to put himself at the "service of the community and culture of Misiones."
For now, Bogdan plans to stay with a local family until he can find work. He says he will soon start taking Spanish classes and look to rebuild his life after the horrors of the Ukraine war.