Separated from their families, friends and the life they once enjoyed, they are refugees not knowing when, or even if, they will return home.
More than 135,000 Ukrainians now call the UK home, one that they hope will be temporary, but one that has offered them protection from Russia’s destruction of their homeland.
Viktoriia Sapruka, 20, left Lviv in western Ukraine for a family home in Essex with her mother, Mariia, and her 14-year-old brother Dmytro. Her father, Andrian, like so many millions of fathers, remained behind to serve his country in whatever way he can.
“Nobody was able to believe something like this can happen in the 21st century,” says Viktoriia. “I always travelled a lot, so for me that was not the big issue, but this is a very different feeling.
“You understand that you cannot go back safely using a plane as you did before. You realise that this is not a trip. It is escape from war. It is awful.
“I can speak English and have found work here, but there is a new culture, the stress after the explosions and the news from Ukraine. It is such a great mix for my mental health.
“I adapt and do everything possible to have a nice new life here.”
After settling Viktoriia and Dmytro into the small village of Stebbing, Mariia returned to support her husband back in Lviv. Viktoriia, a young woman trying to make the best of the situation by finding work in London, is also now the responsible adult, signing the school reports for Dmytro, who attends a local comprehensive in nearby Great Dunmow.
“My mother went back home to stay with father and do some volunteering. Dmytro goes to school here in England, and that is a big change for a teenager. He has started to understand English, but sometimes he struggles with understanding some words or answering his classmates. But it is okay, just adapting.
“It is better than sitting in the basement for nearly six hours a day without fresh air and electricity with explosions nearby.”
Viktorria and Dmytro try to talk to their parents over the internet as often as possible, but the power issues in Ukraine caused by Russian bombardment are making those video calls more difficult.
“Fortunately, sometimes he is available, which is great”, she says, adding that her biggest concern is that her father may have to go and fight.
“He said to me that, if needed, he will fight, even with the health issues he has,” she says. “I hope it will not happen. A lot of people are mobilised, I have this fear our government will take my father for fighting. I try not to think about this. It is my big fear.”
While she has built a life and a new career for herself in the UK, she still cannot forget life before the war.
“My city is completely different now. It is hard to explain, you just feel it in the air,” she says. “I miss everything. I miss the mindset we had before war. I miss myself before war. Now I am a completely different person with a new reality behind my eyes.”
Inesa Semianiv feels she’s one of the luckier Ukrainian refugees because she has her family around her in London.
“I live with my family in London,” said the 18-year-old. “With my mother, father, younger sister, and our dog. I am happy that we are all safe and, most importantly, together.
“I am happy that I ended up in Britain, especially in London. I fell in love with this city and the people who live here. Brits, thank you for your support, you are amazing.”
Despite have her family around her, the reason she is not in her own country does affect her. She thinks of her fellow citizens still in Ukraine every day.
“Sometimes I feel powerless, I feel a lot of pain and, unfortunately, I can’t change anything.
“It is difficult to feel good while someone lives under the covers, without water and light. But no one will extinguish the light inside us, I feel strong when my family is with me, when volunteers are behind me, and of course the armed forces.
Since the war Inesa, who works at the Royal Opera House in London, “everything changed” after the war.
“I understood the price of freedom. The war taught me to appreciate every day, not to waste a single second.
“I learned to appreciate the time spent with friends and relatives. I learned to get out of any situation, because nothing is impossible.”
“This is the most terrible thing that could happen to me, to Ukrainians, to my country,” says Tetyana Atadzhanova, who left Kyiv for London with her 11-year-old daughter Maria.
“When children, Ukrainian families, our soldiers die every day, the destinies and lives of 42 million people are destroyed. This is an unbearable pain that has been with me for 12 months.”
During the first 10 days of the war, Tetyana stayed with her husband and Maria in Kyiv.
“But every day conditions worsened and I was very worried about my daughter, so we made the very difficult decision to go to a safe place.
“My husband and my whole family are now in Kyiv. Words cannot express my constant anxiety for relatives and friends.
“Even though we have been in Britain for 11 months, safe, I don’t feel at peace.”
Tetyana, 46, is learning English but not as quickly as her daughter “who is almost fluent after attending school in England”, and they are in touch with Maria’s father as often as possible.
“She misses her father endlessly. It’s pretty cool that thanks to technology like video calling, we can stay in touch. But being a single woman with a child here is very difficult.
“Simple human hugs with relatives, and seeing happy family members every day are not enough.
“This is the biggest sorrow. I want to see my country peaceful, when people can live normally, and children go to school, and not hide in bomb shelters.”
“We live only by the faith that we know that Ukraine has to win. The genocide of my nation must be stopped, and as soon as possible.”
Anna Ponomarenko never believed Putin would launch an invasion on her country, largely because everyone said he would.
“I didn’t believe it at all,” said 26-year-old Anna who found a safe haven from her home in Kyiv after escaping to Oxfordshire. “I thought at that time ‘everyone is talking about it, so it’s impossible. Enemies never warn their victims before attacking’. I was wrong.”
It’s been a “painful, strange and hopeless” year for Anna, and the people she has left behind hurts most.
“I’ve been separated from my loved ones,” she says. “My boyfriend is in Ukraine, my grandma is there as well. She doesn’t want to leave.
“I miss my job as a journalist, lovely weekends with my friends and family, Shevchenko Park in Kyiv, the feeling of stability and harmony. Just the ability to plan something.”
There has, however, been some brighter moments, not least how she has been made to feel so welcome in the UK.
“To be honest, I’ve got a really nice experience too. I’ve been working at one of the colleges of the University of Oxford as a communications officer for seven months.
“I’ve got incredible experience, I’ve met brilliant people. I visited London in spring last year for the first time in my life, which had always been my dream before that moment.
“But I would refuse all these benefits in exchange for peace in my country.”
On 23 February 2022 Olha Petruk was working late in her Kyiv office, preparing to pitch a new project to her bosses the next day.
“I did not believe in a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine,” says the 29-year-old who has found refuge in London. “Moreover, I didn’t even want to think about it, because I had a lot of plans for 24 February.”
“Even on the morning of the 24th, when I was informed that the war had begun, I did not believe it straight away.”
A year on, her fears around the invasion of Ukraine have been replaced by a visceral hate for Russia.
“The feeling of fear is gone,” she says. “Instead, a feeling of great hatred for Russia, Russians, the Russian language and everything related to them appeared.
“This feeling only gets stronger every time I watch the news, where I see scary footage from the places where rockets hit, the number of dead among peaceful people, children.
“I am afraid that this hatred will remain for the rest of my life.”
While she says she has been “reborn” in the UK, Olha will never forget what she witnessed for herself during the early days of the war.
“The war radically changed my life,” she says. “A person who at least once in a lifetime saw explosions with her own eyes, heard the shrill terrible sound of sirens, hid in the basement and saw destroyed houses, broken human destinies, will never be the same as before.
“The first two months at home after the beginning of the war, I simply do not remember them. Time stopped.”
Becoming a refugee of war is something Olha never envisaged happening to her or millions more Ukrainians.
“Without a doubt, I have made the most difficult decision of my life to move to London. It is very difficult to leave everything behind. Family, friends, job, my favourite city.
“My family stayed in Ukraine. Fortunately, my family lives in the west and there the situation is a little less tense and dangerous as in Kyiv, the central and eastern parts of the country. But all Ukrainians have to experience anxiety and blackouts.”
As with every Ukrainian, Olha is certain her country will expel the invaders.
“Definitely, Ukraine will win the war,” she says. “We will return all our territories. Good always defeats evil.”
Kateryna Tisova is living with a family in Matlock in Derbyshire, where she feels she has found a second set of parents.
Despite the warm welcome and care she has received, she still feels she is a temporary guest in the UK. She also feels a constant pain for the family and friends she left behind.
“I feel terrible, because I terribly want to live only in Ukraine”, says the 34-year-old lawyer from Kharkiv, who left after the impact of the war hit her family directly.
“I am terribly afraid of explosions because my parents’ house and my grandmother’s apartment were bombed”, she adds. “After that I understand that it is very real that the missile will hit your house or the place where you are.”
Kateryna is learning English law, but cannot work here due to the different systems.
“I don’t know what to do here. It was not possible to find a job, because there is no legal support in England.”
While her parents are in Norway “learning the language”, he grandmother remains. She has returned to Ukraine to visit friends, but could not see her grandmother because the danger of bombing was too high.
“It is very difficult,” she says. “My grandmother refused to leave Kostyantynivka in the Donetsk region. I worry about her every day. We all dream of returning home and being united again.”