Victoriia Klimashevska, 21, is a Ukrainian Translator who came to Devon through the Diocese of Exeter’s Ukraine Refugee Support Scheme. She lives with a host family in Exeter. This is her account of the last 12 months:
On February 24, at 5 a.m. Kyiv time, we woke up in a new Ukraine and a new world. The world that was forced upon us. A world that does not live according to the laws, but according to the “concepts” of terrorists with nuclear weapons.
Many people will still tell you that they continue to live on February 24, because time has stopped for Ukrainians. Those of us who have decided to go abroad have received incredible attention and help at all levels.
During the first two months of the war, I lived in a small town in the Sumy region. We had been spending our days updating the news, and these stories of unconditional support from all over the world felt like the only rays of light in our lives.
With the help of the Diocese of Exeter, I have moved to England under the Ukraine Scheme and now live with the sponsors who have become my British family over the past 4 months.
I started enjoying life again, improving my English, looking for work, and volunteering to not only take but also give something to the community.
And yet, for the past year, we have all been living in an altered reality. Sometimes it is very difficult, but then some new experience comes our way, and it helps us to hold on.
When I first came to England, I met a Ukrainian girl who, before the war, lived in Mariupol, a beautiful city on the coast. The city that was completely destroyed by the Russian invaders.
Her family was forced to drive through a minefield to get out of the occupied city after two weeks of continuous missile attacks. She was very happy to find nice people who were kind enough to share their home with her.
I met another friend here in Exeter. Her tragic story dates back to 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied part of eastern Ukraine, her home, forcing her to flee to Kharkiv and start life from scratch, only to destroy it there eight years later.
In 1890 the poet Lesya Ukrainka wrote an iconic Ukrainian poem about hoping regardless of the evidence in front of you. That is the motto that all Ukrainians have been trying to live by for the past year:
Through all my tears, I still shall laugh, Sing songs despite my troubles; Have hope despite all odds I want to live! Away, you, thoughts of sorrow!
I do not want the world getting used to this war. Yes, it is far from you, and you can get tired of it, but please do not get used to our pain. Tolerating war, not wanting to hear about it means forgetting universal human values.
I understand that the energy bills are soaring, the cost of living has become more expensive, but the same thing is happening in Ukraine. Everything is getting more expensive, but at the same time, people are being killed there.
Therefore, when you count how much money you have left in your account, we count our dead. But we cannot surrender. All the more so to our opponent, Russia. Ukraine is our home and freedom is the air we breathe. That is why we are fighting for it and will continue to do so until our last breath.
The Diocese of Exeter Ukraine Refugee Support Scheme has matched around 80 Ukrainian refugees with host families in Devon since it began. You can find more information about it here: https://exeter.anglican.org/pray-for-ukraine/