Anna (left) with Amanda Priest and Amanda's daughter Isabelle
29 Sep 2022

Leaving Ukraine for a new life in the UK

At 5am on 1 March 2022, Anna Shvydka and her daughters, Daria and Sofiia, heard the first explosions. And that’s when they knew the war had started. Six months later, and after they fled their home in Ukraine, Anna has joined our business in Scunthorpe and is embarking on a new life in the UK. This is her remarkable story.

Anna and her family were living in the peaceful Ukrainian city of Kherson, working and studying, when Russian tanks rolled into Kherson on 1 March 2022 at night. On this day, the whole family, together with grandparents, were at home, and when darkness fell, they heard military vehicles and many people found shelter in the basement below their apartment block. Then, the people and tanks stopped.

It was very quiet for a while, and when the family thought something was amiss, the Russians shot at their house from a tank. The whole family miraculously survived, and after the shelling, they did not leave the basement for several days, afraid of being killed in their own home. It was then that Anna realised that she needed to leave and save her family.

The whole world is helping Ukraine preserve its freedom and independence now, including hosting Ukrainian refugees in their homes, providing all kinds of support and assistance. Anna and her daughters thought that the Homes for Ukraine programme in the UK was the most suitable for them, as it offered a safe home and plenty of opportunities for Anna, 18-year-old Sofiia and Daria, 20. Anna posted on social media about her family and was very pleased – and surprised – that after only 2 days, about 10 British families hospitably had offered their homes and support. Anna applied for a visa with the Priest family, who generously offered their accommodation on a farm near the village of Scotter, Lincolnshire. After a month of waiting, they received the visas.

After evacuating from Kherson, Anna’s family, together with their cat Busya, endured a long journey to England, covering thousands of kilometres by car, train, bus, plane and ferry.The Priest family –Amanda, Chris, Amelia, Isabelle and Scott – helped create a cosy and homely atmosphere in their home for a Ukrainian family, where they could not only feel safe, but also could start building a new life in Britain from scratch. From day 1, they helped them in applying for their visas, gathered all the documents for arranging life in England, helped Daria and Sofiia enrol in the university, along with constant psychological support throughout. They also organised interesting trips that revealed the beautiful architecture and nature of the local area.

Amanda said: "The experience of opening up our hearts and providing a safe home for our ‘Ukie’ family has brought much happiness to my family. To see 2 families with so many differences but equally so many familiarities come together to forge a new and unexpected future for 3 incredibly brave people will stay with us forever. Anna and her girls are now a part of the Priest family and will be friends for life.

"To think 4 months ago we didn’t know each other and now somehow fate brought us all together. Our 3 ‘ukies’ hold such special places in our hearts.

"I am incredibly proud of my family, I believe that we have learnt so much through this experience and proved how individual people could make such a difference. We call ourselves ‘women on a mission plus 2 men’ and I think that through tenacity, drive, determination, mixed with good old kindness, we have overcome many obstacles.

"I hope that this story will be passed down through the generations as something positive and inspirational through such sad circumstances."

Anna and her daughters applied for Universal Credit and regularly visited the Jobcentre in Scunthorpe, where consultants supported them in every possible way and gave practical advice on finding a job. Anna’s new English family recommended that she apply for a job at British Steel, as the company is the largest in the region. The job centre also supported this idea and helped Anna cope with the excitement and uncertainty before the interview. And the result? A job offer for a position in the recruitment department at British Steel a few hours after the interview!

Derek Scott, HR Director at British Steel, said: "Anna had just the right skill set we were looking for to join our HR team. Her previous experience in this arena along with a determination and tenacity
to succeed, as evidenced by her decision to leave Ukraine and make the challenging journey to the UK, has meant Anna’s fitted straight in to her role and her career prospects are certainly looking  very positive.

"She’s a great addition to our team and I hope Anna, and her family, continue to move forward on their chosen paths in the UK."

In response to the question "What does the future hold?", Anna said: "Nothing is forever, I don’t know what will happen or where I will end up.

"What I can look to is a brighter future for me and my children, we are very grateful for the UK opening their doors and allowing us to rebuild our lives. I have been able to take a very bad situation
and turn it around and the future looks positive.

"What I do want to say to my fellow Ukrainians, is to not be afraid to look at your skill set and apply them to the UK job market.

"I was able to take my skills and experience in a completely different industry and country and have been able to demonstrate this at interview and secure work with British Steel."