"We are hanging between two worlds": two years on from the invasion, Ukrainians need stability to rebuild their lives - Refugee Council
February 20, 2024

“We are hanging between two worlds”: two years on from the invasion, Ukrainians need stability to rebuild their lives

Anna and her daughters arrived in the UK on the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Two years on from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she describes her feelings, their struggle to build a new life, and how hard it has been living with so much uncertainty:

“More and more people are dying. I have many more friends and acquaintances who have been killed. I find it too difficult to watch the news. We’re doing whatever we can, it just makes us crazy to watch all the news.”

A woman standing next to an ambulance.
“I deliver ambulances to Ukraine, when I can.”


Uncertainty over the future makes daily life in the UK difficult for Anna and her family:

“We are hanging between two worlds, we are dangling in the air. We don’t know how to plan our future. We made huge efforts to rebuild our lives. Even to speak fluently, I spent a huge amount of time, effort and energy.

“I’m working for Marks and Spencer in Lewisham. I’m thinking of applying for other roles, but my future is unclear. It’s frustrating. Even if our visa is extended, without any clarity, it will only extend the situation. At least for children and teenagers, they need a bit more security. My older child, she’s in year 12, my younger child is thinking about which subjects to choose when she gets to year 9, but we don’t know how long we can stay here — this makes us anxious.”

“There are many people in an even worse situation. Many people have no opportunity to study, to improve their English. British people are amazing, the volunteers, we really appreciate this. We really appreciate your support.”

It’s wonderful to meet refugees from other countries…

“I’m part of a team, every Friday we go to Lewisham Council: there are Afghans and Syrians as well as Ukrainians, asylum seekers and refugees. We talk about housing, education, after school classes – and look at what we can suggest, how to build better programmes, for example for employment. It’s wonderful to meet refugees from other countries, we’re learning from them, they’re learning from us.”

Refugee families like Anna’s enrich our communities, our economy, and our culture in many different ways. But they need secure visa status and welcoming policies to rebuild their lives here in the UK. Worrying about their future or their family back home can be very damaging.

The Refugee Council campaigns for family reunion, because whether they are from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, or elsewhere, refugee families belong together. We are worried that the recent decision made by the UK Government to close the Ukraine family visa scheme will make it harder for families from Ukraine to be reunited in the UK.

Our CEO Enver Solomon said:

“The lack of options for Ukrainian and other families separated by war and persecution is already a huge problem. It’s concerning that one of the few safe routes created for families to reunite will be closing.”

“This is a reminder of the disadvantages of bespoke, one-off visa schemes that support refugees in the short term but leave people in limbo, anxious and uncertain about their future. Instead of this ad hoc and inconsistent approach, the UK Government should ensure the UK resettlement route is utilised as a global scheme and confers the same rights, including refugee family reunion, for all regardless of their nationality.”

In the video below, filmed in 2023, Anna speaks about the challenges of coming to the UK and the support she received.

As we mark two years since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which led to the UK public welcoming Ukrainian refugees with open arms, Anna and her family’s courage and resilience remind us of the need to continue to support all refugees in the UK, so they can thrive and rebuild their lives. ■