A Travel Guide is Fleeing Ukraine and Hosting Free ‘Tours’ Along The Way

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The Russia-Ukraine War has left many homes in ruins.

Ukrainian tour guide Olga Dudakova’s virtual tours around the capital city of Kyiv typically drew around 30-100 people. But when Russia invaded, she arranged a tour that attracted over 1800 viewers with the title of “War In My Ukraine.” Dudakova spoke from her home, where nearby bombings could be heard. According to her, she wanted to give spectators an experience that “put them in the real context of what was happening.” 

“It was totally unprepared. I didn’t have a plan,” she told CNBC news, “I just wanted to show my soul and the tragedy of the situation. … This war is totally unjustified, and it’s unprovoked.” 

February 24, around 5:30 AM, was when Dudakova first heard explosions. “I was shocked,” she explained, “I was terrified. And I knew when I heard the bombing that this was the actual war.” 

As she packed their belongings to resettle at a bomb shelter along with her husband and three kids, she canceled a tour she had scheduled for later that day, replacing it with another one to answer viewer questions and speak about what had occurred. She wanted to show the world the realities of war. “For the audience at Heygo,” she revealed, “I’m kind of the representative of Ukraine, the representative of Kyiv, because they can see what is really happening.”

After staying at the concrete bomb shelter, Olga Dudakova and her family stayed in a small Ukrainian town where she was born. There, she hosted a tour that showed spectators her hometown, titled, “A Small Town to Hide from Bombing”. 

Dudakova stayed in her birthplace for six days, residing in her late grandmother’s house until deciding to flee Ukraine to Budapest, Hungary. Filming her experience on Heygo, she recorded gas stations out of gasoline, empty grocery stores, and extreme traffic to cross the borders. The journey, instead of taking 15 hours, as expected, took four days by car. 

At the border, Olga Dudakova saw Ukrainian men saying goodbye to their families, as they are required to stay and fight for their country. Dudakova’s husband was exempt from the rule because he has three children. As of now, she is temporarily staying at a hotel in Budapest. 

Although Dudakova’s tours on Heygo are free, viewers are able to tip. Before Ukraine was invaded, she’d get about $2-$5 dollars from each person. But now, viewer support is funding her escape- not only financially but emotionally. She explains that her patrons, “are like a community that’s really helped me.” According to Dudakova, they’re a source of hope that things will be alright, though her future is uncertain.