Ukrainians living in the UK ‘feeling helpless and shocked’ by Russian invasion

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law on February 24 as Vladimir Putin invaded eastern Ukraine.

24 February 2022

Ukrainians living in the UK are worried about their families in Ukraine, with one man saying that his mum was “left shaking for a few hours” because of Russia’s attack on the country.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law on February 24 as Vladimir Putin invaded eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainians living in the UK have shared that they feel “helpless” and “in shock” by the news.

“It’s absolutely devastating to wake up to that news. I’ve been in tears all morning,” Chrystyna Chymera-Holloway, 37, who is living in London and has family in western Ukraine, Kyiv and on the eastern border, told the PA news agency.

She added: “To hear that there’s shelling in Kiev and to hear that our family are hearing gunshots is just too close to home.

“We’re still in shock. We knew it was possible. We talked about it but the reality is far worse than we could ever have imagined in our worst nightmares.”

Chrystyna Chymera-Holloway on Zoom
Chrystyna Chymera-Holloway (Chrystyna Chymera-Holloway/Richard McCarthy/PA)

She said that her family are safe and do not want to leave.

“If they did, they’re not in a position to leave. Boryspil airport in Kyiv has been bombed, so I imagine there’s no flights leaving.

“Most of them don’t have passports. It’s not like we can send money safely, assuming it will reach them.

“At the minute we feel entirely helpless. But we can reach them and we’ve reassured them if there’s anything they can think of, that we’ll do it for them.”

Viacheslav Semeniuk on Zoom
Viacheslav Semeniuk (Viacheslav Semeniuk/Richard McCarthy/PA)

Viacheslav Semeniuk, 39, who was born in Ukraine but now lives in Seacroft in Leeds, said that he feels “helpless” and is fearing for the safety of his 63-year-old mother and 65-year-old father who live in Vinnytsia, in west-central Ukraine.

He said: “My mum lives in a small town next to a military base and they woke up this morning to a huge explosion and the whole house shaking.

“She was also very frightened and was left shaking for a few hours after it happened.

“I feel helpless because I cannot physically do anything, but I’m considering going to London tomorrow to stand next to the Russian embassy and support Ukraine.”

However, he added that his parents made no plans to leave the country because they did not want to leave “everything they built for 40 years living there”.

“This is their land. Why should they leave? They will probably stay and try their best to help and do what they can.

“They are 65 years old but they can drive, they can cook, they can shoot if it gets to it.”

Mr Semeniuk last saw his parents and sisters in Summer 2021 and said he had plans for a visit this year but is now “unsure” of when he will be able to see them again.

He has been able to stay in contact with his family by making regular calls and has sent over money to help them pay for food and supplies.

Ms Chymera-Holloway added: “For the most part, people are absolutely resolutely going to defend their country and that’s not going to be an easy task for [Vladimir Putin].

“Ukraine has been fighting Russia for its entire existence and they’re absolutely not going to give up now.”

Despite Ukrainians being resolute in the face of adversity, Ms Chymera- Holloway said that “not enough has been done”.

“I think it was a test yesterday and over the last few weeks just to see what the West was going to do to respond.

“Putin’s clearly not scared of Ukraine, but he was cautious about the West and how much they’d respond and a few petty sanctions on three Russian oligarchs and five banks from the UK absolutely made no dent whatsoever and Putin felt confident enough to launch a full, huge massive invasion.

“And the thing is, the British public, at the minute, are showing emotional support to Ukraine, but they need to be prepared to potentially feel a little bit of an impact.

“That’s far less devastating than a war that spills out across the whole of Europe.”

Mr Semeniuk encouraged people to support Ukrainians by “going to Russian embassies, sharing posts, videos and interviews” on the situation and making a donation to suitable causes.

Ukrainian churches and organisations launched the Help Ukraine Emergency Appeal in February to offer aid to those in Ukraine.

One person involved is Iryna Terlecky, 64 – chair of the Association of Ukrainian Women in Great Britain, and a board member from the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.

She said: “All our community organisations and churches came together to organise this appeal. It’s only been running for two weeks but we’ve already smashed through our initial target of £50,000.

“People have been very generous and especially today there’s been a flood of new donations coming in, large and small.”

The money has been used to purchase medical packs for those in Ukraine via an international aid agency working in the country.

“We found out from them this morning that they have already moved those medical supplies from the warehouse to hospitals in eastern Ukraine which are getting ready to treat the wounded,” she added.

“We are glad that we are able to help, but absolutely devastated that help is needed at all.”

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