Svitlana and Snizhana

Svitlana, 57, and her daughter Snizhana, 16, left their home in Kremenchuk, Poltava Oblast and found safety in Bristol with their sponsors, Tamara and Martin.

Here Svitlana tells their story in her own words.

The city of Kremenchuk, Poltava Oblast

In April, Russian occupants carried out several rocket attacks on Kremenchuk Oil Refinery. With the infrastructure destroyed, the production has been stopped. There was a massive bombardment of the surrounding fuel and lubricant depots.

A hard decision

Two members of our family came to England: myself, Svitlana and my daughter Snizhana. Before the war, I took care of our home, and Snizhana studied at a vocational school. There are also three men in our family – my husband and two adult sons.

After what happened in Bucha, we feared for our daughter’s life. My husband is a military servant, so in the event of occupation, our family would be among the first victims. We decided to go to the UK because we speak some English and a friend of ours told us about the British ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme.

Across Europe in a car

When we set off, we only had tickets to Lviv. It was impossible to plan the journey in advance, since at that time the railways were being actively shelled. On the way, we were delayed for five hours. We spent one night in Lviv and then we moved on to Przemyśl.

At the border in Poland, we turned to a resettlement camp, which was very fortunate as one English family, Anna and John, agreed to take us to England in their car. We crossed Poland, Czechia and Germany in three days, stopping in Krakow and Prague.

We have a low level of English. But as soon as we got into the English couple’s car, with no internet, we had to communicate somehow. We were surprised to find that we understood each other.

The family which let us travel from Poland to England in their car

We spent our first night in Britain at the home of the family who had taken us across Europe. It turned out to be a historic house museum with a mill. On the following day, we met our sponsors.

A warm welcome in Bristol

Now we live in Bristol. Our sponsors are a wonderful family, Tamara and Martin. They have two adult daughters who go to college in another city. English people are very friendly.

We were given two separate rooms on the upper floor of the house. And we have a separate bathroom. The rooms that we live in are fully equipped. Everything is thought out to the smallest detail: there are even incense sticks and photo frames. It was very nice to see how we were cared for.

Tamara and Martin showed us around Bristol (although at first it was still difficult to navigate the city) and helped us arrange all the necessary documents.

Our sponsors are vegetarians. They treat us to their usual food. We were surprised to discover that vegetarian dishes are indeed delicious. Overall, British cuisine is very different from Ukrainian. For our part, we cook Ukrainian dishes and the Brits enjoy them greatly.

Strange and funny things

We had never been to the UK and had known very little about the history and traditions of the country. So a lot of things were odd and unusual. The left-hand traffic, of course. Unusually, here they use post offices very frequently and for various issues.

Some funny incidents happen too. For example, when the electronic translator that we use doesn’t get things quite right, giving some funny results. The English word for a supermarket trolley sounds like the Ukrainian word for ‘trolls’. For us, those are mythical creatures that steal your money. It didn’t take long to remember that word!

What next?

I am now studying English in Living Learning English school, and Snizhana will start her language course at the City of Bristol College in September. As a family, we want Snizhana to master a high level of English and so our plan is to remain in the UK for more than six months. To support us through this time, I am looking for work and hope to be able to rent a place of our own.