Recently, a family of four from Lebanon visited the Michalovce Transit Centre. Three siblings – an adult man and a woman with a little sister and their elderly mother – have been living in Ukraine for eight years.

Ilustrak WM

The photo is for illustrative purposes only, for the purpose of protecting persons in this story. Photo © International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The first to move to Ukraine was the eldest son, who found job in the town of Vinnytsia. Soon he felt he could support his family, so his mother and two sisters came to Ukraine, as well. They found economic stability and safety in that country. The feeling lasted until 24 February 2022, when the Russian invasion began, and everything changed.

Continuous air attacks, a loss of income and the constant fear they faced every day made them finally leave Ukraine. The family decided to return to Lebanon. However, their situation was complicated. Civilian planes are forbidden to fly over Ukraine, so the only way they would be able to get to Lebanon was from the European Union.

They decided to enter the Schengen Area through Slovakia. After crossing the border, their first steps in Slovakia led them to the Registration Centre in Michalovce, where they found help provided by the IOM frontline team.

“After living in Ukraine for such a long time, I started to strongly associate myself with the country, as if it had become my true home. In a way I feel like I am also Ukrainian. However, it is better for us to go to Lebanon now,” said the Lebanese man, sharing his thoughts with the IOM frontline team.

IOM frontline workers informed the family about the IOM Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme, through which, based on their voluntary decision, they can apply for the IOM assistance with their safe and dignified return home from Slovakia. The IOM also provided this family with humanitarian aid and other information they needed to know in their current situation.

The family decided to continue on their journey home.

Read more stories from Slovak-Ukrainian borders:

Diary from the borders #1: Ukrainian family of five reunited and found peace in Slovakia

Diary from the borders #2: Svetlana is on the way to start a new life in Slovakia 

Diary from the borders #3: After the war has complicated their lives, Olena with family want to stand back on their feet in Slovakia

Diary from the borders #4: After surviving terrible drone attacks, Anastasia hopes everything will be better in Slovakia

Diary from the border #5: A divided family in search of peace in Slovakia

With the support of: 

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Voluntary Return and Reintegration in Country of Origin (Individual Project). This project is co-funded by the European Union from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). Home Affairs Funds.