Hope amidst the wounds of war: Hometown Christmas for Ukrainians
The Russian invasion in February 2022 compelled a great number of Ukrainians to escape, rendering it nearly impossible for them to return home for Christmas of the previous year.
In December of last year, when sources interviewed Valeria Shashenok, she was a refugee in London celebrating the holiday season with her “British family.”
However, the 22-year-old is spending Christmas in Kyiv with her biological family this year, despite the fact that the Ukrainian capital remains under threat from Russian drone and missile attacks. “Perhaps I will come to regret this decision in the future,” she muses.
“However, this has been careful considered, and my life and career are tied to Ukraine.”
After relocating to London from her place of origin, Valeria states that she “felt physically and mentally extremely exhausted.” She characterises her time in the United Kingdom as “excellent”; however, it is not suitable for her at this juncture due to her employment difficulties.
Valeria’s voyage to Kyiv, Ukraine, spanned approximately one day due to the absence of direct flights from London. Instead, she returned home via train after flying to Poland. However, she considers the lengthy journey to be worthwhile and intends to visit restaurants, family, and friends before returning in time for the midnight curfew.
This is something that Marta Vasyuta experiences as well. The young man, who is now 22 years old, has been residing in the United Kingdom since February 2022. He became “stuck in London” just a few days before Russia invaded the country.
“It was incredibly tough for me to get adjusted to society because I don’t have any relatives or friends back home,” she tells Newsbeat from the city of Drohobych, which is located in the western region of Ukraine.
“I was just transferring houses from one to another, random folks from the United Kingdom who decided to host me, so by the end of the six months, I had changed six different places around.”
Following the receipt of her visa, Marta was able to secure employment and a spot at the university, which ultimately led to the resolution of the situation.
But she discovered that being apart from her family and friends was difficult, and as a result, she made the decision to move back to Ukraine two weeks ago.
Now that she has returned, Marta intends to see as many people as possible while “attempting to appreciate my return home.” “We are planning to observe Christmas together, and I am looking forward to visiting Lviv, the city where I studied,” she explains.
However, the elation of reconnecting with family and friends can be tinged with melancholy; Marta reports that she recently attended the funeral of a 23-year-old man who died in war.
Marta and Valeria have gained notoriety on social media due to their dissemination of conflict-related information and they share a common aspiration for a more favourable 2024, with Marta expressing her “utmost desire” being the cessation of hostilities. “Since the desire remained unchanged in 2023, there are no assurances.” “However, I do expect that killings will cease,” she says.