Ukraine War: ‘My father refuses to leave, he thinks he has to protect our home’ – Ukrainian citizen in UK

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NationalWorld spoke to Kseniia, a Mykolaiv-born Ukrainian citizen now living in London, about her family’s ordeal

More than four million people have fled, according to the United Nations, with a speed and scale of displacement unprecedented in Europe since the second world war.

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As the invasion continues, NationalWorld spoke to Kseniia, a Ukrainian citizen born in Mykolaiv who now lives in London after moving at the age of 17 to study at university.

We asked her what it was like living in London as a Ukrainian citizen and watching the invasion unfold, how her family coped and what she hopes the UK government does next.

How Kseniia and her family were affected by the Russian invasion

Kseniia said the Russian invasion affected her family from the start, forcing them to return to their hometown after a vacation when the invasion began.

She said: “On the day of the invasion, my family was on a ski vacation in western Ukraine.

“They had to go back to Mykolaiv (southern Ukraine) during the Russian attack because they couldn’t leave everything behind and flee to another country.”

She said that after the first week of the war, her family managed to bring her 14-year-old sister to Slovakia, where Kseniia met her and brought her back to London.

She said: “I think the turning point for them was the news of the Russian military launching the attack on a nuclear power plant.

“My mother and grandmother decided to go to western Ukraine after the second week of the invasion because they didn’t want to leave their house – but when the shelling hit Mykolaiv up close, they didn’t had no choice.”

She added: “They have now returned to Mykolaiv because my mother wanted to be with my father during these difficult times.

“My grandmother also wanted to be at home rather than in another part of Ukraine because she thinks it helps her mentally to be at home where everything is familiar.”

Kseniia said her sister had been very resilient in moving away from her family home, finding it “interesting to see how this generation reacts to events”.

“She takes it day by day, the only time she cried was when I met her in Slovakia and when we stayed there for one night, she said it was strange not hearing all those sounds of explosions outside,” she said.

Kseniia added: “On the first day in London, she was smiling and that made me happy too.

“It gave me hope that it will soon be over and people will have the right to live under clear skies again.”

What is the current situation of Kseniia’s family in Ukraine

Kseniia told NationalWorld that her father is still in Mykolaiv, volunteering every day carrying goods such as food and medicine to help citizens.

She said: “He refuses to go to another town because he thinks he has to protect our house.

“I want to think and believe every day that he’s safe, but the reality is he’s not.”

Kseniia said nine people were recently killed on the streets during the recent Russian bombardment in Mykolaiv.

She said: “They are targeting civilian houses, there is still military equipment on the children’s playground.

“Mykolaiv was not targeted as much during the first week of the invasion, but recently the situation has worsened.”

On Tuesday, March 29, the Russian military shelled a building in central Mykolaiv “where up to 100 people were working and 17 are now confirmed dead,” Kseniia told NationalWorld.

“They’re still trying to find people under the ruins, and this explosion also hit the student creativity center where me and my classmates used to go to school events,” she said. .

Kseniia said her mother owns a cafe in Mykolaiv and has since reopened her business to keep the economy going.

She said: ‘When I talk to my friends and family today they feel so proud of their country.

“They’re proud not to give up, they’re proud to volunteer and donate blood.”

She added: “Putin wanted to break up the country but in fact he did the opposite.

“The spirit of our nation is stronger than ever.”

How does it feel to be a Ukrainian citizen living in London right now?

Kseniia said she was “in shock” when the invasion began and still refuses to believe the reality of the situation.

She said: “Being in London, I saw the disturbing news early on, but I didn’t expect war to happen in the modern world.

“Even my family living in Ukraine and having heard the terrifying news about Russian tanks approaching the border – they didn’t believe in war either.”

“They thought it was just another way for the Russian government to scare civilians,” she added.

Kseniia said that as a Ukrainian living in London she was doing all she could to support her country from afar.

She said: “I go to protests to raise awareness, demand change and support my country from a distance.

“I have never seen so many Ukrainian flags around the world, on TV, on social media, in newspapers – the support we are getting from the international community is huge and gives us hope.”

What is your reaction to the Russian invasion?

Kseniia shared her anger at Russian TV channels for feeding her people “propaganda and lies”.

She said: “At the start of the invasion, my mother was calling her relatives and telling them that Russian soldiers were attacking civilian houses and she saw it with her own eyes.

“The response from relatives was that they didn’t believe it because their TV channels told them Russia was on a ‘rescue mission’ and there was no threat to civilians.”

She added: “The Russian government has crossed all possible lines.

“They are killing children, bombing hospitals, schools, shooting at civilian homes and we have no idea what else they can do.”

What do you think of the UK government’s response?

Kseniia explained how grateful she and the citizens of Ukraine are for the “huge support” the British government has shown.

Speaking about visas and the refugee situation, she said: ‘It’s great to see that a new route has been established which means UK families can now welcome refugees and receive government support.’

“However, personally, it didn’t help my situation,” she said.

“My sister is here on the UK visitor visa she had since the start of the year, and because I’m here on the work visa without permanent resident status, I can’t get any benefits for my sister in as a refugee,” she added. .

She said the financial support from the UK government was “crucial”, but more needed to be done to end the war.

She added: “I think Britain must do everything possible to stop the war.

“Even if that includes military, more sanctions or even decision support to close the skies over Ukraine.”

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