How Midlands communities are reacting to bombings, devastation and the desperate plight of Ukraine

Peter Stasiw. Credit: ITV News & AP

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the world watched in complete horror and disbelief.

An offensive of this scale had not been seen in Europe since the Second World War. How could this be happening in the 21st-century?

Why does a war, more than 1,500 miles away in another country, matter to people here in the Midlands?

The bombing, the devastation and images of people fleeing the country on overcrowded trains have had a deep impact on communities across the region.

There are thousands of people of Ukrainian heritage who live in the East and West Midlands.

As Russian troops advanced into Ukraine, it was the news they’d been dreading.

Their worst nightmare had come true because many have close family members there.

When Peter Stasiw, a young pharmacist and member of the Derby branch of the Association of Ukrainians heard the sound of air raid sirens in Kyiv on the TV bulletins, he was devastated.

'I saw the images of the air sirens and I actually started's just terrible'

Over the last two weeks, I’ve met people from Nottingham, Derby and Leicester who have strong ties with Ukraine.

I’m amazed just how close they are, a tight knit community, proud to be British and fiercely proud of their Ukrainian ancestry.

Just a few days ago I met 16-year-old Aneek Makwana, a student from Leicester. His mother is Ukrainian and his father is Indian.

Initially, Aneek was so furious by the continuous bombing that he wanted to join the Ukrainian army to fight the Russians.

'I actually was really determined to fight when the war started...young people like me feel like we have to bear a war on our shoulders and it's not right'

At ITV News Central, we have met countless families who’ve had sleepless nights worrying about their relatives.

They feel frustrated, helpless and a deep sense of despair.

Jon Henley is desperate to be reunited again with his wife Olena. They married in Ukraine in December.

He returned to Market Harborough in Leicestershire just before Valentines Day. The paperwork to facilitate Olena’s move to the UK was almost complete.

She was due to take an English test but the conflict started, which left her stranded. Stranded with her mother, brother and their dog.

They spent more than a week in a metro station in Kharkiv, a city that’s suffered relentless bombardment.

The metro has become a temporary home.

Jon, from Market Harborough, says he lays awake wondering whether or not his wife in Ukraine is safe

A refuge and bomb shelter they share with hundreds of other people. Overhead, as the explosions and shelling continue, they pray for their country and their safety.

The poor mobile phone signal in Ukraine means it’s becoming increasingly difficult to communicate with his wife.

The war has also affected those who have no family members in Ukraine, people who just want to do their bit to help.

With have seen incredible displays of generosity from Leicester to Lichfield, Chesterfield to Coventry.

Aid donations full of nappies, toiletries, medical supplies, toys and more continue to pour in.

'I just find the whole thing really upsetting...I thought we were past war and this is just very close to home'

These are essential supplies bound for Poland to help Ukrainians fleeing the war and for those who are still in the country.

Across the Midlands, vigils have been held to show support for the people of Ukraine.

In Hinckley, the young and old came to light a candle, a symbol of hope that even in darkdarkness, light will prevail.

A mother who attended with her husband and baby daughter wept as she told me how important it was to show solidarity with those whose lives have been transformed.