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Ukraine: 1 Year On - Vika's Story

Ukraine Ribbons
  • Senior School

Before the Easter break we caught up with our Ukrainian pupils to hear about their experiences over the past year. 

Amaliia kicked off our series, explaining how her optimistic and proactive attitude has helped her settle into life in Scotland. If you missed her story, you can read it here.

Up next we have Vika (S6) who candidly recounts her journey, offering some incredibly poignant words of wisdom to her fellow Ukrainians:

Vika S6

A year ago, if someone asked me to tell them about my life, I would say that there was nothing ‘special’ about it. 

I was an average Ukrainian teenager with an average family - maybe not so rich but we could afford everything important. I studied at a college which I really loved and although it wasn’t the best college in Ukraine, it was the first educational institution in my life where I was willing to go every morning. I had a lot of friends, enjoyed parties, was lucky enough to have a first love and generally had a very happy, contented life. 

The 23rd February 2022 was a good day. I went to college, spent some time with friends and went home earlier than usual in order to prepare for the upcoming exams. That evening, I even organised my clothes for the next day as I was planning to have some rest from studying and head along to the cafe after college. 

I didn’t know that those plans were never going to happen and I wouldn’t see my friends again. 

The morning of 24th February started with the noise of bombs and terrible news on the television. When I initially woke up, I didn’t realise what was happening, but that soon changed when I clocked the pale faces of my parents, listening to the live news bulletin. 

The war had started and at that very moment, my whole life separated from what it was before. 

In the first few weeks, we naively hoped that the war was going to end quickly. We stayed home, listening to the sirens echo around us. I remember that piercing fear for the lives of my family, friends and my own. When my primary school was destroyed we understood that it was time to leave and look for a safe place to stay. My mum and I packed up all the necessary things required for around 1-2 months of travel. As refugees, we met a lot of kind people as well as those who, unfortunately, wanted to use the tragedy of Ukrainians for their own purpose. 

All I wanted for the first half of the year was a normal, stable life. Fortunately, for me, I got it here in Scotland. 

I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me achieve that stability, especially the kindness of our hosts who gave my mother and me a home for 6 months.

Now I study here at George Watson’s College where I have understandably encountered some language difficulties. I work hard to adapt to the academic and social environment so that the language barrier is not so much of a problem. I am lucky to have met a lot of great people and feel fortunate that I am still able to participate in Ukrainian community life, albeit in Edinburgh. 

To help my mum financially and ensure I have some money for my own needs, I also found a part time job as a sales assistant. With life feeling a bit more established, I feel I can be happy again. However, as we know all too well, the war hasn’t finished. If anything, this has reiterated how much I love my homeland, nation and our cultural heritage. 

I still feel deep anxiety when I read news updates and when I’m chatting with my loved ones in Ukraine. I know I cannot help them by worrying and I certainly won’t be able to support anyone if I live in an emotional state about my country. As such, I’m trying to donate to our army as much as possible and look at the positives in my life. 

Now that I have lived in Scotland for almost 8 months, I have been afforded with some incredible opportunities to study and get the best education - something I always dreamt of. With this knowledge, I will be able to help Ukraine in the future which inspires me to reach my potential every day. 

Even though these opportunities are a huge cost to me and other Ukrainians who live here, we should never give up even if it is hard, scary and terrifying. I believe that bravery is not just about Ukrainian soldiers; it is about each of us who must live a new life today, deal with the tragedy that happened and find the power inside ourselves to help each other to believe in victory.

Join us next week for our final instalment as we hear from Julia (S2).