How a Ukrainian woman is trying to rebuild her life in the UK without her family
By Digital Content Producer Amani Hughes
Alina’s body still reacts to the sound of planes going overhead, she knows she is safe in the UK, but her mind remembers the sound of war, and that is harder to escape.
“Each time I react, I understand that it’s ok, I am safe, but the body remembers, and you will react because you’re used to the fact that something can fall on you,” Alina Mishkur tells ITV News.
After two months living with war around her in the Kyiv region, the sound of it, the smell of it, getting used to a ‘normal’ life will take some adjusting.
The 38-year-old fled Ukraine just two weeks ago, crossing the border into Poland via train and onto the UK, alone with one small suitcase in hand, nails painted blue and yellow - a constant reminder of home.
But it was not her decision to leave her war-torn country, her beloved Kyiv, it was in her blood to defend her country and stay with her family.
“I breathed with the air of Kyiv, it was totally my city, I just felt its atmosphere within my blood,” Alina says. "People in Kyiv love life, the rhythm of Kyiv is very fast-paced, we became a European city very quickly, it was very progressive, people were striving for a better future, for me Kyiv is the best city of the world.”
A city of golden-domed churches, baroque buildings, cobbled streets, historical squares, has been hit by the war, not to the level of destruction seen in the eastern city of Mariupol, but it has not been spared.
Shattered shopfronts, flattened houses, destroyed buildings, singed black by explosions, tell the story of this war in the capital city.
And so, Alina’s family forced her to leave, they wanted to protect her future, frightened by the harrowing stories they had heard, of the women and girls raped by Russian soldiers.
Even though Alina is now safe in the UK, housed under the Homes for Ukrainian scheme with family friends, her mind cannot rest and it returns to her family back in Ukraine.
“To tell you the truth, I felt better in Ukraine because I knew that I was with my family, I saw everything that was going on and if something happened, it would happen to all of us,” Alina says.
“It’s much easier when you see everyone you love…now I’m here and I’m safe and they are not.”
Alina says she is constantly worried about them, and always checks the messaging app Viber to see when they were last online.
“When I go to sleep I check the news, when I wake up I read the news, whether Kyiv is ok, whether the whole of Ukraine is ok, I’m worried about the whole country, but I am most worried about the people I love.”
Despite this split existence, her body in the UK, but her heart and mind back in Ukraine, Alina is making steps to build a life here.
Under the Homes for Ukrainian scheme she has been granted a six-month stay in her sponsor’s home, and is helping the family she lives with – Oleksandr and Lana – with their glazing and cladding business.
The family are also in the process of establishing a charitable foundation for the people of Ukraine, providing vehicles to the army, along with uniforms and shoes, which Alina helps out with.
The 38-year-old is a qualified lawyer, with years of experience. She has studied international law, has a master’s degree in European law, provided legal assistance to refugees and asylum seekers, spent time in Egypt on an internship where she also learnt Arabic and up until February was working as an international lawyer.
Alina is uncertain whether her law degrees are recognised in the UK, but has been sending her CV to law firms here, hoping at the very least she will be able to work as an assistant in a law firm.
As Alina starts to settle into life in the UK, she is keeping her connection to Ukraine alive, by attending protests for the people of Ukraine, especially those in Mariupol. However she says she was surprised by the turnout.
“I realise that the problem is human nature, that we get used to everything, that we even get used to war. I’m afraid everyone is getting use to the war in Ukraine, and if people get used to it, it might last for years and years. I’m very scared this will happen,” Alina says.
She believes what is happening in her country is not war, but crimes against humanity, “they attacked us without declaring a war, killing civilians, killing children”.
“There is no frontline in Ukraine, they throw bombs here or there, wherever they feel like, without logic, we don’t know where it will be next time. They attacked Kyiv again, they hadn’t touched Western Ukraine and then the day I travelled there, they attacked Lviv,” Alina says.
"International law doesn't work, I studied it at university, but what works? What can the UN resolve? Nothing works.
“Russia wants to scare us, they want us to be horrified and they want to destroy us.”
But war has not dimmed one aspect of Alina's life - dancing.
Her passion connects her back to Ukraine, to Kyiv. A passion which led her to competitions, winning awards alongside her dance partner, and to a time before war defined Ukraine.
“Dancing was my life, for two months I didn’t dance because of the war. I decided to find a dance school here and I found one today. I went there and trained on my own, because of course my dance partner is not here, and I got my piece of happiness today,” Alina says.
“To feel that atmosphere in the class, to dance again…it feels like you’re alive again, life goes on and maybe everything will be fine someday.”
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