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The daughter of Ukrainian refugees, Burien, Wash. resident Irene Danysh traveled to Lviv, Ukraine in March 2022 to volunteer with a group providing housing for refugees. KNKX will be periodically checking in with Danysh.

Back from Lviv, a Ukrainian American volunteer prepares to return permanently

Two women, lower right, look out a window after a Russian missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine, late Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Jon Gambrell
Two women, lower right, look out a window after a Russian missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine, late Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, it seemed possible the conflict would be over quickly. Ukrainian American volunteer Irene Danysh leftBurien, Wash. in March for Lviv to help people displaced by the war.

When we last spoke with Danysh, it wasn't long after a Russian missile strike in Lviv. Danysh described watching people helping each other while others killed each other. She said it felt like watching the world through a split screen.

Danysh is back from Lviv, but she isn’t staying long. She’s selling her home here and permanently moving to the war-torn region. KNKX social justice reporter Lillyana Fowler caught up with Danysh ahead of the big move.

Listen above or read excerpts below.

LILLYANA FOWLER: How has life been in Ukraine since we last spoke?

IRENE DANYSH: The war has gotten significantly harsher, I would say. Ukrainians still have a lot of faith, but the price they're paying right now is huge. And I think there's a real understanding, probably growing, that the price could be enormously high.

LF: Are people still fleeing eastern Ukraine?

ID: You know, one terrible irony is that people in the East, because of so much Russification over hundreds of years, we have a bit of an East-West division to some extent. Language wise, culture wise. And so some people who fled from the east came west and just didn't feel at home, couldn't really integrate very easily. So they actually went home for the summer to be in their hometowns, to be in their precious houses. And now precisely they're getting bombed, attacked, killed, and now they're looking at having to run away a second time.

Two women take a selfie in a paved square with rows of signs in Ukrainian behind them.
Marianna Bilyk
Irene Danysh
Irene Danysh, on the right, and Community for Family director Marianna Bilyk attend an event advocating for children's rights in ware time held in Lviv's Market Square in June Milyk works at the Ukrainian Education Platform where Danysh volunteers.

I think all of us, including myself, can't even begin to imagine what it means to one day run off with the clothes on your back, with your pet under your arm, leaving behind everything you've ever known.

LF: Your plan was always to retire overseas somehow. But you've decided that you're going to move to Ukraine permanently. How did you come about that decision?

ID: Living in Ukraine permanently is a picture I have in my mind for as long as I feel very needed and feel that I owe it to myself and to Ukraine to be there for most of this upcoming period. But otherwise, it's part of my original plan that since I did live for many years in Africa and several years in Ukraine, that I would spend time in between the two and be coming back here a bit. But it's just that while the war is going on, I can't see myself enjoying peace, peace and happiness several months out of the year in Africa when I know that there's such a need in Ukraine.

Lilly Ana Fowler covers social justice issues investigating inequality with an emphasis on labor and immigration. Story tips can be sent to