“Winter as a child was a time of great joy, winter with the war looks very different”

“Winter as a child was a time of great joy, winter with the war looks very different”

My name is Alexandra. I was born in Kyiv and, except for studying in Kharkiv for two years, called this incredible city home for all my life until the war.

I remember the fear and anxiety that penetrated through my veins when I woke up on the brisk morning of February 24, 2022. I immediately knew I had to leave.

My boyfriend and I drove to Uzhhorod, a city in western Ukraine on the Slovakia border. A trip that usually takes ten hours took us two days.

The journey was physically draining, but it was the mental exhaustion that really took a toll. For the duration of the drive, I felt like I was desperately running away from something that was just behind my back – getting closer and closer as each second passed.

When I arrived in Uzhhorod I finally felt safe, albeit only temporarily. This feeling quickly faded as alarms signalled that danger had reached there as well. That’s when I decided I needed to escape Ukraine and the constant nervousness that consumed me.

Thankfully, an aunt of mine lives near Munich and was able to host me after I fled the country. The security of knowing I had support and somewhere to go was a privilege not many around me had, and one for which I am eternally grateful. Two weeks after the war began, I had found safety in Germany.

But once I was safe, I started to think about what came next. I don’t speak German, so I wondered, how can I work? How can I be useful in society? That’s when I applied for a visa in the UK.


The UK is home to me now.

The incredible support I’ve received makes it a comforting place. But I equally value it as a source of great inspiration.

Art is one of my deepest passions, and the UK is the perfect place to delve into it.

The museums give me access to the best exhibitions in the world. The architecture piques my attention whenever I walk down the street. And the nature allows me to discover new things.

In Ukraine, I never saw a fox and now they’re in my garden every day. In fact, foxes have become a muse for many of my sketches.

I know firsthand how being forcibly displaced induces a unique sense of strength and resilience, and that this is one of the many reasons why refugees make brilliant contributions to their host countries.

It is important to help those in need. If a refugee is knocking at the door, it is a moral feeling to open it and help.

It is important to listen to refugees when they share their experiences, as refugee stories foster a sense of understanding and raise awareness of realities on the ground. Who else if not a refugee can tell the truth?

And despite living through hard times, it is most important to be positive. Positivity is what will allow us to overcome all of this.

Winter as a child was a time of great joy

Looking back, the happiest of memories flood my mind: thick layers of clothes; long coats covering my legs; big boots; snowballs; sledging; and a beautiful blanket of snow enveloping the city.

It was as though time didn’t exist when I would sledge down the hill every day after school with friends. It felt like I had been there for a few short minutes, but my coat would be a different colour by the time my parents dragged me home long after dark.

Winter with the war looks very different.

Electricity became scarce after the power grid was attacked. Last winter, there was no electricity for five hours every day.

The cold was so immense without electricity, every aspect of life was dictated by these five hours. It was impossible to work or to socialise. My friends and family told me all they thought about was the cold.  

They had to think about everything – whether to put the kettle on for hot water, to have candles ready for when it gets dark. When there’s no electricity, there’s no Wifi and there’s also problems with connectivity. It can feel very lonely.   

For the people who remained in Ukraine, hours felt like weeks. 

I can’t wait for the day we can celebrate the wonders of the Ukrainian winter again.

Winter in Ukraine

Hundreds of thousands of families forced to flee are facing a brutal winter far from the comforts of home, including thousands of internally displaced people within Ukraine.

Displaced families living in damaged buildings have little protection from freezing temperatures, rain and snow, putting them at risk of hypothermia, frostbite and life-threatening respiratory diseases. Others will struggle to keep warm in buildings without power and exposed to the elements due to shelling amidst sub-zero temperatures.

This winter, UK for UNHCR is calling for donations to help provide essential support, such as blankets, fuel and emergency cash assistance, to families who remain displaced after fleeing their homes in Ukraine.

“I remember the fear and anxiety that penetrated through my veins when I woke up on the brisk morning of February 24, 2022. I immediately knew I had to leave.”



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