Ukrainians tell of hardest year of their lives

time:2023-05-29 14:36:46 source:Al Jazeera

A Ukrainian restaurant in Hull has held a breakfast gathering on the anniversary of the Russian invasion.

Refugees who fled the conflict joined local supporters to mark the start of the war, which has claimed thousands of lives and devastated the country.

Other events were being held across the city, with flags flown and a vigil in Queen Victoria Square.

Ukrainian-born cafe owner Lena Sutherland said the last 12 months had been "the hardest year of our life".

"I wish the war would stop," she said.

"I've lost a lot friends already, I hate this war."

Mrs Sutherland moved to Hull in the 1990s after meeting and marrying a local man who was serving in the merchant navy.

She came out of retirement to open the restaurant as a meeting place for refugees, many of whom work there.

Part of the profits are used to support the local Ukrainian community and fund aid for the war-torn country.

"I spoke to girls who came this year from the eastern part of Ukraine," she said.

"Their life is shattered, they don't have a life or happiness. They can't see their family, it's difficult for them

"I cried together with them, because I have my home here in England and are quite happy but I can't be happy when I know my country is destroyed."

Local supporters also attended to mark the anniversary.

Louis Ramsden from lifeboat charity Humber Rescue helped gather up and ship over aid, with five lorry loads leaving Hull for Kyiv.

He said people in Hull were still making donations.

"We still have great support, people are still willing to give what they have," he said.

"Of course we have a cost-of-living crisis here, but I think people do appreciate there are bigger things going off in the world that are slightly more significant than higher energy bills.

"People are losing their homes, people have really been subjected to barbaric conditions and everyone wants to support them and ease their suffering and pain somewhat."

Ukrainian student Anastasiia Didyk described the invasion as a " significant date in our history".

"This day changed everyone and everyone remembers this day as fear and pride," she said.

"Proud for themselves, for their country, for their army, for their contribution. From the 24 February 2022 we have a different life and a different people."

"This war changed us. Honouring this day can be equated with the birth of a new nation."

Fellow student Bazhena Kukhot said the Ukrainian refugees were very grateful for the support local people had offered.

"It was really difficult to leave our cities, our country and our families," she said.

"We came alone here and it was a rough time, but people here are really supportive.

"We are really thankful to them because they gave us everything we needed, like clothes, toiletries and everything.

"They just saved our lives."

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