Saturday 1 April 2023

Tico trapped by Russian invasion in Ukraine manages to return to Costa Rica

Samuel Vindas and his wife, a Ukrainian national, arrived this Friday night after a long trip through three countries

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01 April 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – The Consular Department of the Foreign Service Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that after multiple efforts, the first family made up of a Costa Rican and his Ukrainian wife arrived in Costa Rica this Friday.

Samuel Vindas, the first Costa Rican to arrive in Costa Rica after escaping from the Russian invasion in Ukraine, was received by his relatives outside the Juan Santamaría (San Jose) Airport. Photo: Albert Marin / La Nacion

Samuel Vindas, 26, who had been trapped in Ukraine after the Russian invasion, is the first Tico to return safely to Costa Rica.

Leaving Kyiv, the capital, was quite an odyssey in which they passed through Romania, France and Panama to land at the Juan Santamaría (San Jose) airport at 10 pm Friday night.

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Samuel says he is “very happy and content” to return to Costa Rica healthy, but sad because people who are very important in their lives and who “unfortunately could not leave” were left behind in Ukraine.

“In the last few days and after hard work, 12 people have been able to leave Ukraine. Of them, 3 are men, 5 women (1 Costa Rican and 4 Ukrainian) and 4 minors. Some of these people moved to other European countries,” the Ministry said in a statement.

In order to strengthen assistance to Costa Ricans, the Foreign Ministry has established levels of coordination and communication with friendly countries with a presence in the region due to the fact that there is no diplomatic or consular representation in Ukraine.

At the San Jose airport, Vindas hugged his mother and father, who received him in tears in the company of other relatives. Samuel described the last days in Ukraine were full of tension and difficult hours.

Samuel Vindas arrived with his wife, a Ukrainian national, after leaving Ukraine, in the midst of the Russian invasion of the country. Photo: Albert Marin / La Nacion

“There were attacks very close to where we were, downed planes fell nearby and that uncertainty also of leaving by car, it was something very dangerous. In the end, we decided to take the risk and left, but it was very difficult, very stressful, and very tiring to the point that I haven’t slept for days,” he declared in the passenger exit area.

To set foot on Costa Rican soil, Samuel and his family, the first to return to Costa Rican soil after the beginning of the Russian attack, made an exhausting journey.

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First, from Kyiv, they traveled in a vehicle for 14 hours to the border with Romania. From there they continued the next morning by bus to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, and later to France. From Paris they took a flight to Panama, to finally reach Costa Rica.

With the hope of starting a new life, Vindas moved to Ukraine three months ago with his Ukrainian partner and got married there. The young man assured that the day the invasion began, he was starting a new job.

“My mother-in-law woke us up crying and very scared, telling us to run away, we were four stations from the center and yesterday we stayed all night in the building’s underground parking lot, at -1 degrees, it was very complicated, we heard everything, we couldn’t sleep We didn’t know what it was,” Vindas said.

According to the Foreign Ministry, other Costa Ricans who were in Ukraine when the attacks began have also managed to leave the country, although they remain in Europe for the time being.

I’m still in Ukraine, I couldn’t get out…

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One of the Costa Ricans who has not yet managed to get out is Sebastián Fallas, 33, who was stranded due to fear of mines on roads and railways. Sebastián, who is from Alajuelita, is still trapped in Ukraine after fleeing the capital a few days ago.

Sebastián Fallas remains in Ukraine with Maya, the dog that he took from Costa Rica three years ago. The image was taken this Friday in a rural area shortly before sunset in that country. Photography: Berezovsky Volodymyr

As explained by Witney Fallas Soto, Sebastián’s sister, his 4-year-old son, Gabriel, and his Ukrainian wife, Svitlana Olifirova, 33, did manage to escape, arriving in Romanian and finally Austria. They preparing to travel to Costa Rica.

Sebastian, however, was not so lucky and remains stranded some 60 kilometers south of the Ukrainian capital.

Article translated and adapted from La Nacion and wire services

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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