Young refugees from the Ukraine War consider their lives in London

Currently residing in London are five young Ukrainian refugees

Since Russia invaded Ukraine one year ago, thousands of young Ukrainians have fled their homes in search of safety in the UK. Today, their lives look very different.

Many of the travelers arrived in London, where there is already a sizable Ukrainian community.

They still don't know when they will return, and the war is still going on a year later.

Nikita Vikhorev, 23, says, "I'm making a new life here. It's not my home, it's not my country.

Five young Ukrainian refugees now living in London
After Russia invaded Ukraine, Nikita Vikhorev, Yuliia Kuznetsova, Arina Koroletska, Oleksandra Shuliatieva, and Andrii Barannik (l-r) all left their homes there.

When referring to the fictional portion of the train station from the Harry Potter series, he says, "Sometimes I can't believe that I'm living in London, I can visit Westminster or I can go to Kings Cross and see the Platform 9 34" with a smile.

Thanks to the efforts of the London Performing Academy of Music (LPMAM), Nikita was able to flee the nation and avoid being drafted, unlike the majority of Ukrainian men.

After the war broke out, the academy worked arduously to evacuate more than 50 Ukrainian music students and provided bursaries so they could continue their studies.

LPMAM gave legal letters to male students like Nikita and singer-guitarist Andrii Barannik asking for military exemption.

Without these, they would likely have been called up to fight on the front lines and prohibited from leaving Ukraine.

Photo of 23 year old Nikita Vikhorev
Nikita is an accomplished violinist who hails from Odessa.

Andrii explains, "My dad told me you can go to the army or you can go to the UK.".

The 21-year-old's mother and sister are still living in their hometown of Kharkiv, which is close to the Russian border, where their father is a soldier fighting in Ukraine.

It was a "hard decision," he admits, to make the move, but he did it to "try to continue our culture.".

He says, covering his face with his hands, "At night, I lie on my bed and think about young guys, they're fighting on the front.".

Photo of 21 year old Andrii Barranick
Near the Russian border, in Kharkiv, is where Andrii's family is now.

Nikita is also concerned for the welfare of the acquaintances he had back home. In Mariupol last March, one of his friends who is fighting in Ukraine was captured.

"We don't know where he is, we don't have any information, he's a Russian prisoner, and I don't know anything," he claims.

How does he feel now that he is in London as opposed to being in battle?

He says, "I know I can't fight, so my weapon is my violin.".

"I want to use music to encourage people to care about Ukraine," I said. ".

Photo of 23 year old Nikita Vikhorev
In London, Nikita was able to carry on his academic career.

Arina Koroletska, a 20-year-old refugee, is likewise passionate about promoting Ukrainian culture.

She fled Ukraine with her mother and sister, who are now residing with her in a transitional home.

Arina, a singer, is pursuing her musical studies full-time and has discovered performance opportunities thanks to a Ukrainian social club in Twickenham.

The club was initially established in Prosperity, a nearby Ukrainian eatery, but has since grown and relocated into a nearby church hall where it offers classes and activities for people of all ages.

Every Friday afternoon, the group meets, and Arina conducts the choir as they sing British and Ukrainian songs.

Photo of 20 year old Arina Koroletska
At the Twickenham-area social club established for Ukrainian refugees, Arina (third from right) is the choir director.

She exclaims, "I'm very happy here. We perform, trying to show English people our culture. ".

Oleksandra Shuliatieva, age 17, also attends and participates in a traditional Ukrainian folk dance. She claims that it has aided in her friendship-building and opportunity-seeking.

She declares, "I want to be a dancer.". We perform frequently, interact with lots of people, and work to uplift their spirits. ".

Oleksandra is from the small village of Horenka, which is close to Kiev. According to what she has been told, 70% of the buildings there have been destroyed.

"I felt terrible when I saw this; this is my home, and I don't want to leave. ".

Photo of 17 year old Oleksandra Shuliatieva
In addition to finding a job and furthering her education, Oleksandra has made new friends in London.

She claims to be "so proud" of her uncle and cousin who are "protecting the country" because they are family members who serve in the military.

She does, however, miss her father, whom she regards as her "best friend," and who has remained in Ukraine.

She says she's keeping a positive attitude and embracing her new life in the UK capital despite the fact that things have changed since February 2022.

She says, "I've made new friends, found a job, and moved to a different city than my hometown, but for now, it's OK to stay.".

Photo of buildings in Horenka
Oleksandra is from Horenka, a heavily bombed village close to Kiev.

Yuliia Kuznetsova says adjusting to life in London has been "different, not difficult.".

When war started, the 25-year-old woman was living in Lviv with her husband and working a job she loved.

Life as we knew it came to an end on February 24; she claims that things will never be the same.

She has been residing with a sponsor since arriving in the UK in April of last year, but she eventually wants to move into her own apartment.

Although she continues, "I do miss home, I also have to keep in mind that the home I miss doesn't exist anymore.".

Photo of 25 year old Yuliia Kuznetsova
Through the Homes for Ukraine program, Yuliia traveled to the UK.

Despite the anxiety brought on by the constant air raid sirens and the time spent in bomb shelters during the first month of the war, Yuliia claims she didn't want to leave when it first started.

To maintain the family line, however, her family decided that one person should "go abroad, to a safer place, and try to settle down.".

Her mother is still in Ukraine, and her father and husband are currently engaged in front-line combat.

Despite having to leave so much behind, this group is optimistic about the future.

The musicians want to spread their culture, and Oleksandra says she hopes to open a restaurant serving food from her native Ukraine.

Andrii tells her, "If you do the restaurant, I'll come all the time and play the music. And eat a lot of borscht!".

View the complete interview at. The Catch Up on BBC Three.

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