• Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

One year on from the Russian invasion, a Ukrainian family have found a home in the north-east


On 24 February 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine, and in April of that year Victoria (Vikki) Ishcheriakova made the difficult decision to leave her home to escape the war with her mother and daughter. Now, Vikki has become a valued member of staff at the University of Sunderland, and her daughter and mother are adapting well to life in the region. One year on from the Russian invasion Vikki talks about her decision to leave Ukraine, and the warm welcome she has received in Sunderland.

Vikki and her family are from Poltava, a historic city in central Ukraine.

“The first months of the war was such a stressful time,” says Vikki, 39. “I would hear the sirens and feel such a sense of panic. You didn’t know where the next missile would land. I just remember that horrible sound, and the desperate feeling of wanting to hide, but never feeling that anywhere was safe.

“I read about the British scheme, Homes for Ukraine, on Facebook,” explain Vikki. “I found a sponsor, a wonderful British family in Ryhope who opened their doors to my family. I am so appreciative of them for giving us a home, for their total support. They are our guardian angels!”

Ten months on from that move, Vikki, her ten-year-old daughter Yaroslava, and her mother Svitlana, are settling well into life in the region. For the last 20 years Vikki worked as a lawyer in Ukraine. Five years ago she achieved her license to practice as a solicitor. Since September Vikki has worked as an assistant in the Apprenticeship Team at the University of Sunderland.

She adds: “Everyone at the University of Sunderland is so friendly and supportive. I feel like they are my second family.”

10-year-old Yaroslava – known as Yasya – is fitting in well at school in Ryhope, while still studying distance learning at her old school in Ukraine.

“My daughter is in Year 5 at St Patrick’s Primary School in Ryhope, and she’s very happy there. She’s really improved her English skills, and she loves mathematics.

“She didn’t speak English perfectly before we came here. In just six months she learnt to speak proper English.”

Vikki’s mother, Svitlana, is also adapting well to life in the region.

“My mother is 62, which is Ukraine makes you a pensioner – but in England she says she is a young lady again! She’s studying English at college, which she has found difficult, as she had never spoken English before.

“She had her own house with her garden in Ukraine, but here of course it’s very different for her. She misses her house, but, thank God, our home is still there in Poltava. Other Ukrainians who have come to Sunderland from the Donetsk region have had their homes destroyed. They have nothing to go back to when the war finally ends.”

Donetsk was invaded at the beginning of the war and saw some of the fiercest fighting.

“My father is still in Ukraine, along with my aunt. My sister and nephew live in Poland. Every morning I start my day by reading the news. It is very hard. My heart and soul are there in Ukraine.”

Vikki doesn’t know what the future may hold for her and her family, but she is grateful that they now feel safe.

“When the war began, I decided that I would not make any plans for the future until this horrible war will be over. The main thing is that my family are in a safe place, and that they feel safe. I live here and now, and I pray for Ukraine, for our defenders.

“A lot of Ukrainian people who came to the UK don’t speak English and they lack the confidence to learn it. That’s why it is very hard to find any job for them. Ukrainian people were not ready to come here, everything happened very suddenly. It is a big problem for Ukrainians to be employed.

“Life goes on in Ukraine. We are stronger than Russia and the Russian president. We will win! Glory of Ukraine!”