In her last semester of nursing school, Newton resident Olesya Simonova sat to take her midterm, mind racing, while the fate of her homeland and family hung far out of her control. Her 12-year-old daughter, Eva Agureyeva, was stuck in Crimea with her grandparents, and Simonova had to come up with a plan.
Agureyeva, who was born in Methuen, was living in Crimea with her grandparents while her mother completed a Master of Science in Nursing program at MGH Institute of Health Professions. And then, everything changed.
“The minute I heard about the invasion, I was home at that time, calling my parents and trying to read all the news possible from all different countries,” Simonova said. “I was looking in the news trying to find that this is not true.”
Crimea, previously part of Ukraine, was annexed by Russia in 2014. Simonova said she knew she had to get Agureyeva home.
“I wanted to get her out of there, but I didn’t have a specific plan,” Simonova said. “I tried to listen to lectures, but my mind was away. I was so emotionally shocked.”
In March, Simonova finalized the plan to bring her daughter back to Newton with the help of Eva’s father, Yevgeniy Agureyev. They landed in Boston March 14.
“As soon as they got here safely, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Simonova said. “I didn’t sleep for days.”
Now back with her mother, brother, and father in Newton, Eva has adjusted well to her new school and to socializing with her classmates, Simonova said. She has always been creative, her mom said, and has been knitting different colorful animals for her friends and family. Eva has a long list of orders written in smudged pencil in her notebook.
Simonova is weeks away from a big milestone in her professional career, but the allure of graduating from nursing school doesn’t feel the same right now, she said.
“It’s going to be a new step for me,” Simonova said. “It’s a new chapter in my life which is exciting, and the only thing is if I’m going to go back and see my family –– it’s my biggest concern right now.”
Simonova came to the United States in 2006 as an exchange student without intentions to become a nurse. While traveling around, she said she noticed the differences in the medical care between the US and Crimea, specifically how rural areas and small towns in her homeland had little access to good healthcare.
When starting at MGH in 2019, Simonova’s original goal was to return to Crimea after nursing school and help in the medical field there, but that reality has halted.
“Now you can’t plan anything –– I don’t know what’s going to be tomorrow,” Simonova said. “Today is one way and then tomorrow it’s going to be something different, and the war is not even close to being over.”
Although her daughter is home and Simonova’s career is about to begin, she said she is still overcome with worry for her friends and family that remain in Ukraine and Russia, she said.
“This has to stop,” Simonova said. “It’s not the way we should live.”
Belle Fraser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.