By Horaci García and Nacho Doce
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Ukrainian student Daria Dremliuga and her Russian flatmate moved in together last summer, never imaging that just a few months later they would be marching through their new city, Barcelona, to demand that Russia end a war.
A native Russian speaker, Dremliuga’s life was turned upside down last week when Russia unleashed a relentless bombardment on her home city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest.
“We lived in peace, we were happy before (they) came and bombed our homes,” Dremliuga, a 24-year-old management student, said as she got ready to attend an anti-war rally with her flatmate Daria Gorokhova.
“My city…is being destroyed… I don’t know how many years it will take to rebuild… and it’s one man’s fault.”
Dremliuga’s 10-year-old brother, sister, mother and stepfather – who she regularly calls and texts – are still back home, seeking shelter from the barrage where they can.
“My relatives sleep in basements, in metro stations, just to stay alive,” she said before pulling out her phone to show a video of Kharkiv’s night sky scarred red by explosions.
Though far from home, Dremliuga is still putting up a fight. On Tuesday, she painted her country’s flag and the words ‘no war’ on her face before heading out with her flatmate to demonstrate.
“WE NEED TO UNITE”
Like many Russians living on the Iberian peninsula, Gorokhova has joined protests against a war about which she feels only anger and sadness.
“I’m really sorry and saddened by what is going on now, and I’m trying to support her with this tragedy,” Gorokhova, a 33 year-old who works in marketing while studying, said as she sat on a couch next to Dremliuga.
Later on, side by side in Barcelona’s Catalunya square, they sang ‘Bez Boyu’, a Ukrainian song by Okean Elzi with the lyric “I won’t give up without a fight”, and joined thousands shouting: “Russians out of Ukraine.”
“I’m feeling very bad,” a tearful Gorokhova said, contemplating the catastrophe that a third world war would entail.
“This shouldn’t be happening… in our countries.”
Dremliuga urged all Gorokhova compatriots to follow in her flatmate’s footsteps.
“We need to unite,” she said. “Please, Russians, go out onto the squares.”
(Writing by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Catarina Demony and John Stonestreet)