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Introduction to Ukrainian language and culture
Introduction to Ukrainian language and culture

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4.3 A personal story

This week, instead of a hope story from the media, you have a personal story from a Ukrainian displaced person living in the UK. It would be interesting to have more personal stories from Ukrainians about fleeing their motherland and their impressions of life in new places. If you are a Ukrainian or a host who could help your guest write their story in English, please post it in the My Story thread of the forum. Please don’t give real names or information which might help identify the writer.

Knowledge exchange forum [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

On 24 of February I woke up at 7am because my mom called me. She asked if I know what’s happening and that I must pack now and leave immediately because Russians bombed two airports around my hometown as well as military objects within the city.

I asked her, where should I go, and she said ‘Go west’. I didn’t know what to pack as I never believed something like that would really happen, so I’ve chosen some most important things, including my passport, documents for my studies and money. I then packed some random very basic clothes and hygiene products. I was honestly lost and didn’t where to start and what to do, but I somehow managed to get prepared within 30 mins.

I was starting to say goodbye to my grandma and my cat (my mom was at work at the time) and it all seemed like in the movie.

I called a taxi and went to the bus station. To cut a long, exhausting story short – it took me two days to finally reach Poland.

My aunt helped me to book a hotel and I decided to catch my breath for a couple of days before starting to think what’s next.

Meanwhile, my city was being bombed and I couldn’t sleep at night because my parents were still there.

In some time, I’ve decided that I will fly to Barcelona, Spain, as I didn’t know anyone in Poland and Barcelona was the place I knew and was familiar with.

When I arrived, I met a girl, and the embassy helped us to be hosted by a local family.

At this time, the UK had just launched a Ukraine Family scheme and as my aunt is a British citizen it was something we were waiting for.

My family was also able to leave Ukraine and all of us applied for a visa and successfully got it.

A long way from Warsaw to London, two days, changing three trains, we’re finally arrived in the UK.


First impression – hard to remember really, but it was exciting. Then – absolutely not. After travelling to 18 countries, first time in my life I had a culture shock.


  • Firstly, there are more overweight people than I am used to seeing. I guess this is my personal exaggerated impression as I’m a doctor.
  • Secondly – British supermarkets. Everything is very huge, big, you can’t just buy one item, you have to buy a pack of them. Everything looks and tastes very plastic, doesn’t seem to be healthy and natural.
  • A lot of pre-made food. I’ve never seen so many pre-made dishes, and people actually buy lots of them.
  • Not a big selection of fish. I didn’t expect it from the country literally located on an island. The only option is salmon and cod, which is mostly frozen.
  • Not an eco-friendly country – everything is packed in plastic and no proper sorting of trash.
  • You must have a car. Very hard to get to the place, as some villages don’t even have a supermarket and good bus connections to the bigger city.
  • Buses and trains can often be late.
  • Train strikes.



  • Personally, I’m a big city person and I couldn’t live in a village or town. London is more expensive, but it encourages you to work more and to build your career.
  • London is a more comfortable place to adjust, more similar to what we are used to, more European, multinational.
  • Much better with commuting, a lot of options. Again, more what we are used to.
  • A lot of opportunities for your personal and professional growth.


  • Unlike Ukraine, food and clothes are much cheaper and more affordable.
  • Good pay.
  • Companies care about employees (personal experience).


  • Free access to healthcare.
  • Preventive medicine – regular check-ups, etc.