Anna: A Story of Upheaval, Resilience, and New Beginnings

Anna – mother of two, daughter, English and German teacher. Having been forced to flee her native Kyiv, she is now also a refugee in search of a new home.

Like many Ukrainians in Kyiv, Anna was woken on 24th February at 5am to loud bangs coming from outside. She thought it was the sound of fireworks, but this dream quickly disintegrated as the reality of her situation kicked in.

We had the opportunity to speak with Anna, a Ukrainian refugee who fled Kyiv when the invasion began. Anna, her husband, and their two children headed for the Polish border, trying to find some normality in the city of Krakow. They are now living in the UK, in a small town in the county of Devon, through the UK’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

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Anna’s life before the war

It was the casual life of an ordinary Ukrainian teacher. Life was good.

Anna worked as an English and German teacher before the Russian invasion began. She, her husband and two children had everything they needed in Kyiv. With a population of 6 million, there were good schools, job opportunities and good access to services.

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Anna’s dramatic escape and journey to Krakow

On the 24th of February I woke up at about 5am, I heard what I thought were fireworks. I didn’t think it was bombing.

Forced to flee and leave her elderly mother and disabled father behind, Anna and her family headed for Poland along with thousands of other Ukrainians. Everyone was anxious and nervous, with fights breaking out in the queue and cars running out of petrol. Anna was incredibly relieved when they finally made it to Poland. They headed straight to her friend’s house, who lives in Krakow, where they were given food, water, and shelter. It was at this point they applied for a visa to the UK.

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Life in Krakow

The first time I met Jonathan (from our local partner JCC Krakow) it was amazing. I was in such a desperate situation. He told me everything was going to be alright.

The initial shock of leaving Kyiv behind was heart-breaking for the family. Her daughter wept for their loss. However, despite uprooting their life completely, Anna’s family started to feel some sense of normality over the three months they spent in Krakow; Anna’s children were at school, and she was working as an English teacher. JCC Krakow stepped in and helped the family to get back on their feet, providing food and toiletries, and even giving Anna’s son a cake and gift on his birthday!

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On the move again

Right now, we are in the UK. Our sponsors are amazing. But we miss our life in Krakow.

Soon after our initial meeting with Anna, when we visited Krakow with the chief Rabbi, their UK visas came through and they left their new life for England. For many of us, it is hard to comprehend abandoning our life once. Almost impossible to think of uprooting for a second time. In Krakow, Anna and her family had started to create a life for themselves. Anna told us that her kids had adapted to the changes well, but that it was harder for parents like herself; organising new schools for children, finding employment, and settling into the community.

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What’s next for Anna?

I am a teacher, and I want to work. It is very important for me to be independent. To become part of the society, to work, to pay taxes. I want to know how to get a job, how to get involved with this society.

Anna’s resilience and bravery, whilst dealing with the devastating consequences of war, shine through. The emotional toll of uprooting her life over and over, and leaving friends behind, is immense. Anna is one of millions of Ukrainians forging news lives for themselves in safety.

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