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Ukraine: 1 Year On - Julia's Story

Ukraine Lights of Senior School
  • Senior School

I never gave much thought to what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do with my life. I lived freely and was happy to simply let things ‘flow’. It was exciting to see how things might turn out for me.

I liked being a teenager with very few worries - the only real concerns were school attendance, homework and hanging out with my friends. I knew that way of life would not be forever so I tried to enjoy it, making the most of it while I could. Life felt reasonably calm and I loved the slow pace of my day to day living. I was learning new things and maturing all the time. All in all, I was content.

Upon reflection, I realised that life’s journey is a process and change is inevitable, especially as we grow up. I always knew my life experiences would shape me and influence my future choices. For example, it has been a life long ambition of mine to attend a university abroad after leaving school. Ukraine would always be home - a cosy place to come back for some comfort and love but I knew I was ready to spread my wings, think ahead and consider my next steps.

In 2013 I moved out of Ukraine because many troubling issues occurred and the familiar feeling of safety disappeared. As a child, I didn't question anything and managed to easily adapt to new environments and lifestyles. Fast Forward to 2015, my family and I moved back to Ukraine and I began re-adjusting again. I started school and met new people - everything was ‘normal’. For me, the best approach was to live my life knowing that I could be moving away again soon. Although things were somewhat uncertain, it was important for me to leave my mark so I could remember everything in years to come.

On 23 February 2022, I didn’t feel any different. I was expecting to go to school as normal and had already begun planning the weekend’s activities. I woke up at 5am and saw a red sky through my window - it was very confusing and I didn’t know what to do. I checked my phone and saw hundreds of messages and missed phone calls.

That’s when it hit me - we’re at war now.

I didn’t feel shocked or worried, it felt more like an illusion that was happening somewhere else. As I sat in the basement, hearing sirens echo around me, it never hit me that I might die. My whole body was running on adrenaline, trying to survive.

After months of living in those conditions, not knowing what would happen in the immediate future or if we would even manage to get food or electricity, my family and I knew we had to get out of the country. We set to, translating the relevant documents by ourselves and filling in forms for the all important Visa.

Time passed and we eventually got to Edinburgh. It was so calm and quiet which helped me process the extent of what had happened throughout the past months. It then dawned on me that this situation was almost like watching a movie about my life from the outside, from a different dimension.

I started to adapt to my new life in Edinburgh - a city with a completely different dynamic and climate. Initially, the transition was hard but as I adjusted, things got somewhat easier. Of course, as a Ukrainian citizen living in Scotland, it is safe to say, we are not ‘out of the woods’ yet. However, I trust that I now have the resilience to cope with whatever is thrown my way.

Having been in Edinburgh for over a year, I’m hugely grateful to have an array of new and exciting opportunities available to me and am grateful to the Watson's community for their support - academically and socially.