How Will Ukrainian Refugees in UK Celebrate Christmas
Like many Ukrainian refugees, Yuliia Kashperenko will spend Christmas away from home this year.
She feels upset at the thought of being away from her family and friends in Ukraine, but comforted to know she will spend the holiday with her host and their children in south London.
Kashperenko, 25, arrived the UK in October, leaving her parents behind in the Kyiv region. “With this family, I feel like I’m with my family,” she says. “I realise it’s better to stay here. I’m in a safe place with good people.”
The Ukrainian government advised refugees not to go home over Christmas, because of fears the country’s energy infrastructure would not be able to deal with the demand, meaning many will spend the holiday apart from loved ones.
Kashperenko, who worked in the media and as a copywriter in Ukraine, arrived in London after applying to the Homes for Ukraine scheme. She fled because she was worried about attacks on the capital and being forced to survive the winter without power. “I understood that Russia was going to destroy cities and energy systems,” she says.
She describes her sponsor, who is in her early 60s, as a “really nice woman with a good humour”. “I’m lucky to live with her. We spend time together, cook together. We drink wine and talk about the situation in Ukraine, London, relationships, politics.”
They have spent the run-up to the festive season decorating the house and doing Christmas baking. Kashperenko says she tried her first mince pie the other day.
Her sponsor has also helped her set up her life in the UK, accompanying her to appointments at the local jobcentre and the council. She also arranged for her to have English lessons. “She helped me to believe in myself,” she says.
Kashperenko recently began working six days a week as a waitress in a central London restaurant. She enjoys the city’s bustling atmosphere and says she feels at home there, but emphasises she is not in the UK by choice.
“I want to live in Ukraine with my friends and parents and help my country,” she says. “Russia [has] destroyed everything. People are not thinking about how to spend their Christmas, they’re thinking about if they’ll have power.”