London's Ukrainians Speak of Shock and Heartbreak

Concern growing for their relatives following Russian invasion

Ukrainians holding demo outside Downing Street this Thursday
Ukrainians holding demo outside Downing Street this Thursday


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Ukrainians living in London have expressed their shock and heartbreak after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine overnight.

“It’s a scary, shocking, heart-breaking, devastating tragedy.”

Oksana Mudriyk, 44, lives in Fulham with her two children but her husband Alex is currently stuck in Kiev after returning to Ukraine for a family matter.

“My husband woke up this morning from the missiles in Kiev. Everybody could hear the bombing.”

Referencing what appears to have been Russian shelling close to the Ukrainian capital during the night, Oksana described the grim mood gripping the country today.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she said, “Obviously there is some emotional panic, but also anger and an understanding that we need to fight and defend our land because no one can do this for us.”

With her husband unable to return to the UK, Oksana says her children, 8-year-old twins Arina and Danylo, have begun to worry about him.

She said, “They are asking me ‘what will happen if our dad dies in the war?’. My son is asking ‘do I need to go to war now? Do I need to fight to defend our country?’.”

Many Ukrainians living outside the country have spent the morning trying to contact friends and relatives.

Yaroslav Taranenko, 40, has lived in London for over five years and has family in the south of Ukraine: “The first thing I did was quickly check on my family and friends. They are all safe for now.”

Voicing his concerns that war in Ukraine would affect his ability to communicate with his family, he added, “I’m in contact with them through my mobile, but I’m very worried in case there are going to be issues with mobile coverage. Then I have no means of contacting them.”

Yaroslav explained that he had been trying to get his mother a visa to come to the UK, and that she was meant to have an appointment at the visa application centre in Kiev tomorrow.

However, with Russia’s invasion, it is no longer safe for her to travel and the visa office has closed.

“I have just bought a wonderful flat and I was hoping my mum would come to visit, but now I don’t know when that would be possible.”

Relaying what friends in the Ukraine have told him, he said: “I’m afraid the panic has started.

“In the cities everyone is rushing to the shops, some people are trying to drive away so the roads are full of traffic.”

Describing how it felt to watch the situation unfold from the UK, Yaroslav added, “We’re trying to stay calm, I’m trying to do as much as I can to support them but it’s just terrifying. I can’t believe it’s happening.”

Serge Kaminsky, 45, says for many older Ukrainians, Russia’s invasion is reminding them of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Ukraine during the Second World War.

He said, “My grandmother was born in 1931 so she was a kid during the Nazi invasion. She is saying she will use the same cellar to shelter in.”

Serge’s father, who is unwell, has been moved to the western part of the country for safety.

Summing up how he felt about the Russian invasion, Serge said, “I wish I could say I was okay, but I can’t. It was a shock.”

Russian people living in London have been expressing their solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Maria MacDonald, 35, has lived in London for six years and says that were she not eight months pregnant she would be joining the many protests scheduled in London for the coming days.

She said, “The whole situation with Ukraine is completely wrong. It’s just wrong that we still have territorial disputes in 2022. It’s so mediaeval.”

While Maria says she would love to go to Ukraine again one day, she said that on principle she would never visit the territories annexed by Russia: “I will never ever go to Crimea, because that was their territory, and I don’t think that it was correct the way it was taken.”

All three of the Ukrainian Londoners the LDRS spoke to praised the UK’s response to the unfolding crisis but said more was needed to stop Russia and President Putin’s aggression.

Yaroslav said, “I think the support from the UK was brilliant, but at this stage, the sanctions are not going to work.

“I believe we need to seriously consider if they can send military personnel to help Ukraine fight this aggression.”

Echoing this sentiment, Oksana said, “We ask the civilised world to support Ukraine with immediate reactions and pressure on Russia, widening economical and personal sanctions and a UN mission to stop Russian aggression.

“Ukraine is now defending Europe.”

Joe Talora - Local Democracy Reporter

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February 24, 2022