By Krisztina Fenyo and Krisztina Than
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Fleeing from Kyiv was an unusual way to get to know each other better for Russian Mikhail Liublin and his Ukrainian girlfriend who started dating only weeks before war broke out in Ukraine.
They travelled for five days to get to Hungary, hearing bombs go off around them and wondering if they would make it before arriving at the border on March 1.
Sitting in chilly sunshr5ine on a small balcony at their rented flat in Budapest, they are now trying to plan their future.
Like the other 2.7 million people who have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion started, in Europe’s fastest growing refugee crisis since World War Two, their peaceful lives were shattered.
Barely knowing each other as a couple, their fates suddenly became entwined in ways they could not have imagined.
“(The escape) was very stressful and when there is a lot of stress I think people show their true faces, and obviously she did not know what to expect from me and I didn’t know what to expect from her but in fact we did everything very well, we worked as a team,” said 31-year-old Mikhail.
“Now we spend 24 hours a day together and for now it is alright and hopefully it will go on like this forever,” he added with a big smile.
Mikhail, a software engineer, and his 25-year-old lawyer girlfriend Valeriia Nikolaieva both have professions which could take them anywhere in Europe.
They plan to stay in Budapest until they decide where to settle after the war and both want to return to Ukraine.
“I hope we will be in a safe country where we can build a new life, settle down and wait until this whole craziness is over,” Mikhail said after they had enjoyed a rare moment of peace with a ride on the Budapest Eye Ferris wheel.
They still shudder at the sound of sudden noises and police sirens.
“Everything is so beautiful here, and there are a lot of great restaurants and great buildings.. however, we have not been to any attractions because we cannot relax as if we were on holiday because we are still thinking a lot about our life and where it is heading to,” Mikhail said.
As a Russian, he hopes he will not encounter too much hostility.
“I represent maybe a small or maybe not so small population of Russian people who don’t support Russian policy, who don’t support (the) Russian President, government and who basically want to kind of repay and bear responsibility for what Russia has done, and restore the faith in Russian people,” he said.
(Writing by Krisztina Than, editing by Ed Osmond)