July 13, 2024

Denbighshire Council Worker Oksana shares her story of War in Ukraine – and finding peace in Wales

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia was officially mobilised in February 2022, leaving Ukrainians close to the fighting under constant threat. Around 8 million Ukrainians were displaced within their country by June, and more than 8.2 million had fled the country by May 2023. The fighting has caused the largest refugee and humanitarian crisis within Europe since the 1990’s, with many countries offering a safe haven to Ukrainians, including Wales.

Oksana, who is 26, is one of the people who has found safety within Wales and now lives with a sponsor within Denbighshire.

Oksana is from a village close to Dnipro, which is near the Donbas region and is one of Ukraine’s largest cities.

Oksana studied computer systems and networks at college in Dnipro and worked as a system analyst within the city for 4 years. She is now working at Denbighshire County Council and is on a 12-week placement as a Climate Change Support Officer, helping to process important climate change data.

Oksana had no intention of abandoning her residence in Ukraine.

However, when a rocket struck a nearby street, causing a powerful tremor that overturned everything on her bedside table, she had a sudden realization that the war had reached her doorstep. Consequently, she made the decision not to take the risk of trying to relocate to a safer location in Ukraine. During April of 2022, she escaped from Ukraine, while her mother and sister chose to stay behind.

 

“You don’t worry about the War until it knocks on your window.”

 

Oksana said:

“You don’t worry about the war until it knocks on your window. In March of 2022, I was woken up to a bright light outside my window. It was a rocket. When it hit, my bed moved and everything on my bedside table fell off. When we watched the news later that night, it said that the rocket hit my neighbour’s house, which is only a two-minute walk away. I still can’t believe it’s happening. Today I wake up and get dressed and my Mum and Sister are still over there, and the war is still going on”.

By chance, she came across information online stating that Britain was welcoming refugees from Ukraine through the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ initiative. She also discovered a Ukrainian woman on Facebook who had been residing in Britain for a considerable period. She managed to secure a sponsor for her in Wales.

Oksana reached out to her sponsor, who she had been communicating with through Facebook and relying on Google Translate for translation assistance. Together, they collaborated to gather the necessary documents. As Oksana waited for her visa, which takes three weeks to process, she worked to earn some money. Amidst the sound of warning sirens, she sat in the safety of a hall and worked, anxiously awaiting the approval of her visa.

 

“Multiple rockets were launched, and I could see it all from my balcony”

Oksana personally witnessed missiles being fired at Dnipro airport from the balcony of her apartment. Describing the experience, she said:

“It felt like a nightmarish scene. Multiple rockets were launched, and I could see it all from my balcony. They were like fireworks, like something out of a movie. Concerned about the worsening situation, I sent a video to my sponsor, informing them that my departure might be in jeopardy. My sponsor went above and beyond, helping with the processing of documents and even reaching out to the local radio for assistance”.

 

Due to the destruction of the airport, Oksana had to travel to the opposite side of Ukraine by train to reach Poland. The train journey took 24 hours and took her to Lviv. Along the way, she encountered another train that had been bombed, further highlighting the gravity of the situation.

Once at Lviv, Oksana took a bus over the Polish border to Warsaw. There, she said she was so happy to see volunteers who were handing out food to the newly arrived Ukrainians:

“They were handing out soup and fruit. I was so happy because I had barely eaten anything for two days, I can’t explain how happy I was”.

Oksana stayed in Poland whilst she waited for her final visa documents to come through. The documents luckily came through a few hours before her flight was departing for Liverpool.

 

She expressed:

“The moment I landed, I paused to admire the crimson sky and the sunset casting its glow over Liverpool. Captivated by its beauty, I couldn’t resist capturing the scene in a photograph (pictured above). Soon after, my sponsor greeted me at the airport, holding up a large sign bearing my name, embracing me warmly, and checking if I was alright”.

 

Upon settling in Wales, Oksana found employment at a local pub and enthusiastically engaged in English language classes.

Visiting London had been a long-held dream of hers since childhood, and to make her birthday extra special, her sponsors surprised her by arranging a visit to the capital. It proved to be an unforgettable experience. Reflecting on the situation, Oksana shared:

“I had been yearning for this dream since my early years, but it’s bittersweet to realize that it has come true under such circumstances”.

In addition to exploring London, she has been actively discovering various parts of the UK, including a recent excursion to the Isle of Wight, accompanied by her sponsor.

 

On coming to Wales, she said:

“My favourite thing about living in Wales is the fact that I am safe. There is a little gym in the garage that I like to use and I also like taking leisurely walks, capturing picturesque moments through photography. There is a garden at my sponsor’s house that is so pretty, with flowers and a big old tree. I even rearranged my bed to have a view of it. I have a deep appreciation for nature, and Wales offers a splendid backdrop for my passion. Moreover, the people here are genuinely kind-hearted”.

 

Oksana now works at the Council as a Climate Change Support Officer and said:

“I was looking for a job like this for a while and the interview for the placement was exactly a year from when I first came to Wales. It is a similar job to what I did in Ukraine, I work with data, however it is slightly different data. I like the job and my team is nice”.

To find out how you can help and support the people of Ukraine, please go to: https://www.denbighshire.gov.uk/en/community-and-living/ukraine/supporting-the-people-of-ukraine.aspx