Young refugees who fled the Ukraine war recall their time in London

In London right now, five young Ukrainian refugees

For the thousands of young Ukrainians who fled their homes for safety in the UK a year after Russia invaded their country, life is very different now.

Many of those who traveled ended up in London, where a sizable Ukrainian community already exists.

The war is still going on a year later, and they are still unsure of their return date.

Nikita Vikhorev, 23, claims that although this is not his home or his country, he is forging a new life here.

Five young Ukrainian refugees now living in London
Following Russia's invasion, Nikita Vikhorev, Yulia Kuznetsova, Arina Koroletska, Oleksandra Shuliatieva, and Andrii Barannik (from left to right) all left their homes in Ukraine.

He smiles and says, "Sometimes I can't believe that I live in London, I can go to Westminster or I can go to Kings Cross and see the Platform 9 34", alluding to the made-up portion of the train station from the Harry Potter books.

The London Performing Academy of Music (LPMAM)'s efforts allowed Nikita, unlike the majority of Ukrainian men, to leave the nation without being drafted.

The academy put forth a lot of effort to evacuate more than 50 Ukrainian music students after the war broke out and provided bursaries so they could continue their education.

LPMAM provided legal letters requesting military exemption to male students like Nikita and singer-guitarist Andrii Barannik.

Without these, they might have been ordered to the front lines of battle and barred from leaving Ukraine.

Photo of 23 year old Nikita Vikhorev
From the city of Odessa, Nikita is a gifted violinist.

Andrii says, "My dad told me I could join the army or I could go to the UK.".

The father of the 21-year-old is a soldier serving in Ukraine, and the mother and sister are also still living there, in their native Kharkiv, which is close to the Russian border.

It was a difficult decision, he admits, but he moved to "try to continue our culture.".

He says, putting his hands over his face as he thinks about the young men fighting on the front, "At night, I lie on my bed and think about them.

Photo of 21 year old Andrii Barranick
Near the Russian border in Kharkiv, Andrii's family has returned.

The fate of the people Nikita knew back home is another concern for him. In March of last year, Mariupol saw the capture of one of his friends who is fighting in Ukraine.

He is a Russian prisoner, and I know nothing, he says. "We don't know where he is, we have no information.

How does he feel now that he is in London rather than fighting on the front lines?

He says, "My violin is my weapon because I know I can't fight.".

"My goal is to use music to encourage concern for Ukraine. ".

Photo of 23 year old Nikita Vikhorev
Nikita was able to carry on his academic career in London.

20-year-old Arina Koroletska is another refugee with a passion for promoting Ukrainian culture.

Together with her mother and sister, she fled Ukraine and is currently residing in temporary housing.

Arina, a singer, is continuing her musical studies and has discovered performance opportunities through a Twickenham Ukrainian social club.

After growing and moving into a nearby church hall, the club now hosts classes and activities for people of all ages. The club was initially established in Prosperity, a Ukrainian restaurant in the neighborhood.

Arina conducts the choir there, singing British and Ukrainian songs, at the group's weekly Friday afternoon meetings.

Photo of 20 year old Arina Koroletska
At the social club established for Ukrainian refugees in the Twickenham area, Arina (third from right) is the choir director.

She exclaims, "I'm very happy here. We perform and attempt to introduce English people to our culture. ".

Oleksandra Shuliatieva, 17, participates in a traditional Ukrainian folk dance performance as well. She claims that it has aided in her friend-making and opening up new doors for her.

She states, "I want to dance.". "We perform frequently, interact with a wide audience, and work to uplift the mood. ".

Oleksandra comes from Horenka, a tiny settlement close to Kiev. She has been informed that 70% of the local buildings have been destroyed.

"This is my home, and I don't want to leave it," the speaker said after seeing the situation. ".

Photo of 17 year old Oleksandra Shuliatieva
In addition to continuing her studies and looking for work, Oleksandra has made new friends in London.

She has family members serving in the military, and she expresses her "proudness" for her uncle and cousin for "protecting the country.".

But she misses her father, whom she considers to be her "best friend," who has remained in Ukraine.

Regarding how things have changed since February 2022, she says she's choosing to remain optimistic and to enjoy her new life in the British capital.

She says, "I've made new friends, found a job, and moved to a different city from my hometown, but it's OK to stay for the time being.".

Photo of buildings in Horenka
Oleksandra hails from the heavily bombed village of Horenka, which is close to Kiev.

Yuliia Kuznetsova describes adjusting to her new life in London as "not difficult, but different.".

When the war started, the 25-year-old was married, living in Lviv, and working a job she loved.

"Life as we knew it came to an end on February 24. It will never be the same," she claims.

Since her arrival in the UK in April of last year, she has been living with a sponsor. She soon hopes to move into her own apartment.

I do miss home, but I also have to keep in mind that the home I miss doesn't exist anymore, she continues.

Photo of 25 year old Yuliia Kuznetsova
Yulia immigrated to the UK through the Homes for Ukraine program.

Yuliia claims that even though the constant air raid sirens and time spent in bomb shelters during the first month of the war made her anxious, she didn't want to leave when the war first started.

However, her family decided that in order to maintain the family line, one person should "go abroad, to a safer place, and try to settle down.".

While her father and husband are engaged in combat on the front lines, her mother is still in Ukraine.

This group has high hopes for the future despite everything they had to leave behind.

Oleksandra says she dreams of opening a Ukrainian restaurant in addition to dancing, and the musicians want to continue sharing their culture.

Andrii tells her, "And eat a lot of borscht!" before adding, "If you do the restaurant, I will come here all the time and play the music.".

View the entire interview on. BBC Three's The Catch Up.

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