I was born, I lived and studied in Mariupol. Mariupol was thriving in recent years.

Life was wonderful. I can say the last few years in Ukraine, the economy was good, we had opportunities to travel abroad to other countries.

I was happy in Ukraine, in Mariupol. I had stable work there as an accountant for the police and a stable income. I didn’t want war, I didn’t want anything to change. Everything was fine.

On 24 February when everything started, I woke to the sound of bombs. Nobody went out in the city.

At 6am I went to work. At 12 o’clock some parts of the city were bombed already, and I was afraid, fear drove me to return home. The buses didn’t work. I got a lift home, and I talked to my friends. All of them told me to go somewhere safer.

That day, at 3pm, I got a train, I decided to leave. When I was on the train, I decided to go to Kyiv. But Kyiv was the same situation as in Mariupol. My friends told me to go back, in Kyiv it was even worse. I spent one week in Kyiv, then my friend’s daughter suggested we leave. I left with her, and we went to Lviv together.

We lived in a special house for older people. After a few months, my friend’s daughter, she came back to Kyiv, but I came to the UK by invitation on Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme.

Mariupol is occupied by Russia now, I can’t go back there.

Being in Doncaster, it was difficult to decide to stay here, but I got massive support from Charlotte at the Refugee Council. My sponsors, where I currently live, they support me as well. I enrolled to college, and my life became bright and colourful. It was only after that, that I decided to stay here.

For now, I want to make my home here. Our President, Zelensky, came here to England, and I saw the huge friendship between Britain and Ukraine. It’s inspiring. I want peace and I want everyone to be happy. I see how earthquakes and disease take people’s lives. I want the war to be finished quickly, as soon as possible. I love life very much, that’s why I decided to stay here.

When I think about the anniversary of the beginning of the war, I don’t sleep properly. I’m anxious, I worry, I’m afraid because I can’t go home. Sometimes I think ‘how am I living here?’ and my mind tells me ‘you’re just on holiday here!’ Because if I think differently, I’ll just lose my mind.

I arrived here alone, and I felt lonely here, but Charlotte at the Refugee Council gave me huge support and help. I feel their love and friendliness, and the Ukrainian Centre as well, and I feel this support from our community. It keeps me going. I feel this generosity, and this support. Refugee Council run events and tours at Bradford Hall. These events opened my eyes, and after that I can’t shut my heart off.

When there was war in Syria, I saw the little girl who was put into an aeroplane, and I thought, how is it possible that war came to my country, to us? My ex-husband had a son, he’s gone recently. War touched me and my family. We lost family members, because of the war. This man, he was 32 years old, and he served in the army, and his aim was to defend Ukraine.

I want to say the British people are very kind to us. I want to say they opened their hearts to us. It’s astonishing how they opened their houses and gave us love, they opened their soul for us.

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