repatriation flight to Mexico from Ukraine The repatriation flight that brought Omar Aviña and Iryna Volkova to Mexico on Friday. Photos by SRE

After fleeing war in Ukraine, Mexico not an attractive option

The couple fled bombs in Kyiv but fear violence in Michoacán

A couple evacuated from Ukraine by the Mexican government said that Mexico isn’t an option as a place to settle due to concerns about violence.

Omar Aviña, 32, from Jacona, Michoacán, and his Ukrainian fiancée, Iryna Volkova, 26, were in Kyiv when the Russian invasion began. They spent the first night in Iryna’s apartment, but when the windows were shaken by explosions, they sought refuge in the subway, where they stayed for six days.

“We feared for our lives. You could hear the planes flying low and the surrounding explosions, and everything was shaking — the ground, the windows. We heard … the sirens, which are still stuck in my mind,” Aviña said.

The couple fled Kyiv on Wednesday morning on a bus organized by Mexico’s Foreign Ministry and crossed the border to Romania on Thursday.

In Romania, they were evacuated from Bucharest with 79 other people on a Mexican Air Force plane and arrived in Mexico on Friday. Volkova was only able to leave with basic items such as her laptop, documents and some clothes, she said.

evacuees to Mexico from Ukraine
At left and center, Iyrna Volkova and Omar Aviña.

She said that her family was still in danger.

“I’m very worried for my family. They live in the south of Ukraine in a small city that was bombed yesterday [Friday] … My heart isn’t at peace … but I know that they will remain strong and will fight, and I will help them in any way I can,” she said.

However, speaking while on the evacuation flight, Aviña said that despite escaping immediate danger, living in Mexico wasn’t an option for the couple.

“Probably we’re going to move … We’re not going to live in Mexico or Ukraine, that’s for sure. We have to establish ourselves properly somewhere. We’re going to see whether [that will be] in the United States, Switzerland or China because we are planning to have children,” he said.

The couple met while studying in China in 2020 but left due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While in Kyiv, Aviña saw news from Mexico of as many as 17 people killed at a wake in San José de Gracia, Michoacán, he said. “It makes you think a lot. They shot, like, 17 … Zamora and Jacona [other municipalities in Michoacán] are the same … The violence is heavy there; the situation is complicated,” he said.

Last week in Jacona, a body was found buried under stones, a former soldier and his partner were shot in a taxi and a young man was killed in cold blood while eating at a food stand, the news site Debate reported.

With reports from Debate

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