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King's colleagues on their lives before and since being displaced: Refugee Week 2024

For Refugee Week 2024, two members of our King's community Research Fellow Dr Olha Myshakivska and Research Assistant Iryna Peretiazhko reflect on their lives before and since leaving Ukraine, and what home means to them.

What was life like in your home country?

Iryna: "Before the war, life in my home country was vibrant and fulfilling. I worked as a chemistry and biology teacher at a reputable private school in Kyiv, alongside tutoring and preparing students for exams.

"My fiancé and I had just settled into a newly renovated apartment, having recently started a small family business—a tourist agency. Outside of work, we enjoyed staying active through sports and cherished spending quality time with our loved ones. 

It was a carefree and happy existence, filled with endless possibilities."– Iryna Peretiazhko, Research Assistant

Olha: "I have lived in Ukraine all my life and I described my life as very happy, with a job I loved, with my family and plans for the future. The Russians destroy all this, and the life of every Ukrainian once again becomes a struggle for survival."

When you were younger, did you have an ambition of what you might like to be when you were older?

Olha: "I have always had ambitions and liked to study. All my life I have tried to learn something new, and this is like a race, you can’t stop. Since early childhood, I wanted to become a medical doctor. My mother is a paediatrician and from an early age I spent a lot of time in the hospital while I was waiting for her. This dream came true."

Where did you imagine you’d be living as an adult – the country where you were born or somewhere else?

Iryna: "I could never imagine my life anywhere but in Ukraine. While I've travelled extensively to various countries, my heart has always remained devoted to my homeland."

Can you outline how and why you became displaced?

Iryna: On February 24, 2022, war came to my country. I remember every second of that dreadful day when I woke up at 5 in the morning to explosions. The fighting was happening 20 kilometres from our home; explosions were continuous, shaking the walls and windows." 

What is life like for you now?

Iryna: "It's hard to answer. On one hand, I'm happy to be living in the UK and gradually adjusting. I'm starting to find friends, like-minded people, and discovering favourite spots. I've settled into a routine here, and I'm almost integrated.

"I truly appreciate this incredible opportunity to be here and be safe. But I can't say I feel Britain is my home. It's a strange feeling, really, not knowing where your home is. I think everyone who has moved to another country has felt this. I believe it just takes a bit more time."

Do you think most people understand what it means to be a forcibly displaced person and are there misconceptions you would like to address?

Olha: "It is hard to explain until you experience it. But I would describe it this way: your life is completely changed, and that is something you cannot be prepared for. You need to start your life in a completely new unfamiliar environment, cope with your emotions, and move forward despite everything."

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