Ukraine: One Year on
This Friday, February 24th marks the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, how have those that came here coped, settled and lived with the enormous upheaval, uncertainty and fear for loved ones back home over those past 12 months?
“I remember the night, I was living with my family…..we got a call…. they might attack the power station.” Not long after this Yelyzaveta (pronounced similarly to Elizabeth) packed her bags and left everyone and everything she knew behind as she left Ukraine to seek safety.
From Masters Degree, to refugee
Just one month before the invasion, Yelyzaveta graduated with a masters in psychology. Now she found herself on an 18 hour train ride to Poland before applying for the recently announced Homes for Ukraine Scheme, and onwards to the UK to meet her new home and her new hosts.
“It was hard [when I came to the UK], but it became harder six months after I arrived. At the beginning everything is new… it’s hard but you are excited…. Six months after that it becomes harder because you don’t have friends here. You do know people, but they are not your best friends. They are not your family, your mother, your father and you start to really miss your country…. It’s not easy to just find friends [like you had back home]”
For the last 7 months, Yelyzaveta has been working as an interpreter, mostly supporting psychologists in translating appointments with those who have fled Mariupol. Although proud to help her fellow Ukrainians to access mental health support, Yelyzaveta finds it very tough. This is often the case for interpreters in these situations, especially those with similar experiences. Not only do they have to listen to traumatic experiences they may be able to relate to, but also repeat them in a second language to translate. “After the session I need two days to come back to reality [and recover from the session].”
The reality of war
In January, she made a big decision to go back to visit her family in Dnipro. With the city still under Ukrainian control, the city has to go on. However during her visit, Yelyzaveta experienced one of the most difficult moments of her life. While having dinner, a large missile hit and destroyed the very next building, just 150m from where Yelyzaveta was. It was quickly discovered this was a busy residential building, with many casualties.
“I heard everything, it was so scary. You don’t know what to do, people start screaming, running, you are just in shock. You think it’s probably going to be the end. Its scary.”
One of the things that stood out to Yelyzaveta while standing out looking at the building, was the children she could see around her. Realising that this was normal life for these children growing up. That after the shock of this attack, people once again would have to go on, would have to continue life.
“We go through this. People are used to it now but they are still scared.”
After this, and the huge casualties, people weren’t even talking to each other. They were shocked, they didn’t know what do do.”
However it’s not long until things have to return to this ‘normal’. People still work, there are coffee shops, restaurants, businesses that continue on. Even with now regular power outages, people have adapted and arranged generators. No one is surprised when they get a morning coffee if they are asked to wait a few extra minuets for the generator to kick in.
“It’s sad, we probably shouldn’t have adapted to this but what else can we do?”
Back in the UK, Yelyzaveta is grateful for the support she has been given. “When I left Ukraine one year ago, I didn’t know it was going to be as hard as it is now….One year on though and we are still getting support. Thank you to the people and to the government for helping those in need.”
The war must end
Yelyzaveta wants to continue to help those she can, hope to see her family again and hopes for the war to end soon. With so many still in Ukraine that need help and many that simply can’t leave, they live a life where explosions are becoming normal. A world where being scared for your life is normal. This should not be the case. Yelyzaveta fears that the longer things go on, people will start to forget about Ukraine. That they will get used to it. The flags come down, the news stops and they are forgotten about.
Everything happening in Ukraine is a reminder that no one should have to adapt to this and no one should ever get used to this.
RMC have been at the forefront of resettlement and integration support since the original Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme which was launched back in 2015. Our support varies across programmes, but includes pre-arrival, initial support & local area inductions, English Classes & Employment support as well as wrap around support to access benefits & healthcare and immigration support.