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Ukraine: 1 Year On - Amaliia's Story

Our Ukrainian pupils selling ribbons to mark the one year anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine invasion
  • Senior School

Following the impact of the Russia-Ukraine invasion over the last year, we have welcomed a total of six Ukrainian pupils into our school family: Amaliia (S6), Vika (S6), Ksenia (S4), Max (S3), Julia (S2) and Violetta (P7). 

The pupils have immersed themselves in the Watson’s community and taken advantage of the opportunities offered to them; from leading workshops at our Language Ambassadors Club to fundraising for Malawi, Sunflower Scotland and the Ukrainian Army. A number of our more senior pupils have even kept up their learning within the Ukrainian curriculum, attending online classes at their respective schools overseas. The group is a true testament to the resilient, hardworking Ukrainian culture and the positive energy they have brought to Watson’s is admirable.

Over the next few weeks, we will catch up with Amaliia, Vika and Julia, as they each reflect on the last year and share their experiences. 

To start off our series, we have Amaliia who explains how her optimistic and proactive attitude has helped her settle into life in Scotland:

Amaliia S6

Before the invasion began, I was living my normal life, going through high school, working and hanging out with friends. I was ready to go to college and had even been accepted to one of the best business schools to further my studies. Back then, I was anticipating going to University after college and the next 5 years of my life had already been planned. But on 24 February at 4:30am, all that changed as my mum woke me up, exclaiming: “the war has begun!”

I started packing everything I could think of into a backpack, preparing myself to go down to the shelter with my family that very second. My survival kit was not in the best shape as my mind was a blur when I was packing it - I was in shock. I packed my documents, phone, headphones, a box containing memorabilia and my favourite dress. What was I thinking of? I had been considering what I wanted to keep in case a flare hit my home.

After a few months, on 28 May I arrived in Edinburgh. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, I managed to make some new friends almost immediately. During the last week of the school holidays, as I waited for a response from George Watson’s College, my parents advised me to go to the Tynecastle School for a week to adapt better to my new surroundings. It worked well as I made a lot of friends there and began to understand the British format of studying better.

During the summer break I found a job in a restaurant, pursued a volunteering project at a Youth Cafe, and made more friends, who were also from Ukraine. I also went to a summer camp with other Scots, which helped me to interact with people and improve my English.   

Throughout the holidays I worked and volunteered a lot - the city was busy due to the Edinburgh Festival taking place so I did not have much free time for social media. The digital detox was a very welcome break! My volunteering role, in particular, offered a real sense of purpose, organising a number of exciting activities for Ukrainians who visit the cafe. My priority was to focus on communicating with Ukrainians and Scots, getting them involved in different activities together whilst also assisting with any translation queries.

Thanks to many people, my life became active again and I started feeling a bit better, but of course, whenever I had any free time, my mind was fully immersed in the Ukrainian news, my family and friends who were still in Ukraine.

When the academic year began at George Watson’s College, I decided to change jobs as my previous role was too hard to combine with studying. I now work in a souvenir shop and am very satisfied with it as it allows me to continue volunteering as a translator 3 times a week after school. I also now train with the George Watson’s College girls football team - a sport I used to thoroughly enjoy back in Ukraine. This was a great way to build new friendships and communicate with people as everyone was so kind and helpful. I have also become part of the Language Ambassadors as a Ukrainian Ambassador, which I am so excited about, because we are involved in different charity projects and fundraising. For example, me and my Ukrainian friends recently presented Ukraine as a country to the other Language Ambassadors. We explained more about the culture, national food, clothes and traditions whilst also teaching them some words and phrases in Ukrainian. Switching up my academic studies with engaging extra-curricular and enrichment opportunities helps me relax and balance my mental health.

Ever since arriving I have thrown myself into a multitude of different ventures, which I am grateful for because I like being involved in activities that allow me to learn something new every day. 

I believe that this is only the beginning of life here in Scotland.

Tune in after the Easter break when we will hear Vika’s reflections on life in Scotland.