This week is International Refugee Week, and during the week, we are shining a light on some of the refugees that have settled in Dorset.

Today we hear from Maryna, a refugee from Ukraine.   When the war broke out in Ukraine in February 2022, Maryna, her husband and their two children were on holiday in Sri Lanka. They left their native city Zaporizhzhya only 5 days before the war started. They couldn`t return as all airports were closed and the country was under missile attacks.

As the weeks went by and they watched the horrors of the war unfold on the news, Maryna with two children aged 11 and 9 decided to apply for visas to the UK, whilst their father returned to Ukraine to join the army to protect the homeland. He was sent to serve in a military hospital.

They arrived in Dorset in April 22 to live with a host family that had registered their interest in helping Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Maryna says: “We are grateful to our host family for giving us accommodation when we needed it, and for all they have done to help us feel welcome.

“The children and I lived with them for nine months before we were able to find our own flat to rent, and they are still a big part of our lives here.

“The children have settled in at a local school, and I have found work with Help and Care, a local organisation that supports Ukrainian refugees.

“Before the war, we had a very good life in Ukraine, we lived in Zaporizhzhya region, which is now 80 per cent occupied by Russia.  I was working as a journalist.  We liked to spend time with our family and friends, kids enjoyed their childhood.  We travelled a lot in Ukraine, it is a very beautiful country with good infrastructure and places to visit.

“It’s not been easy to leave everything behind, including my family, my job and home.

“I have family and friends including my mother in Ukraine.  My grandmother passed away recently, which was also difficult as I was unable to go to her funeral. What Russians are doing to our people and our land is really terrible, but we hope that with the help of international community we will win this war soon.

“Of course, I miss my homeland, and once the war is over and it is safe for us to return, we will do so.

“I want to be part of rebuilding Ukraine and have a future there, but whilst the war continues, I am grateful for our safe haven in Weymouth.

“My employment with Help and Kindness gives me a purpose.  Having been here for over a year now I am glad to offer support to new arrivals.  I know how difficult it is to leave everything you know behind and start a new life as a refugee.”

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