Pin It
Screen Shot 2023-02-21 at 15.24.47
via Instagram (@maligoshik)

3 young Ukrainians on how their lives have changed since the 2022 invasion

Putin invaded Ukraine one year ago today. Here’s how life has changed for three young Ukrainians since then

As dawn broke on February 24, 2022, bombs began raining down across Ukraine. The strikes came off the back of a televised address from Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which he announced plans for a “special military operation” in the country. Days earlier, in another televised address, Putin falsely claimed that Lenin ‘created’ Ukraine in 1917 and stated “Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space”, dramatically increasing tension between the two nations.

For most Ukrainians, life has changed beyond recognition in the past 12 months. Many have lost family members, friends and loved ones. Some have not been back to their homes since fleeing; others have lost their homes altogether. At present, over eight million refugees fleeing Ukraine have been recorded across Europe, while an estimated eight million others have been displaced within the country.

To mark the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion, we spoke to three young Ukrainians about how their lives have changed over the course of the past year.


“February 24, 2022, was the scariest 24 hours of my life. I hope that I never have to experience something like that again. The night before I had gone to pierce my ears with my girlfriends and we had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant – the next day I woke up in a completely different world.

“Since then, my life has changed in ways that are hard to comprehend. My dad and my grandparents decided to stay in their village near Kyiv and they spent three and half weeks under Russian occupation there. That was one of the scariest times of my life, too – it was incredibly difficult to accept that my family was on the active frontline of a warzone. Luckily, they were liberated at the end of March.

“I’ve never permanently left Ukraine. That was a very conscious decision – I didn’t want to leave. That’s something else I’ve discovered this year – how much I’m actually tied to Ukraine. Because I studied abroad and I’ve lived abroad, it probably would have been easy for me to leave Ukraine if I wanted to, because I have a bunch of friends in other countries. But I did not want to go. I spent the first three months in Lviv, which is in the western part of Ukraine, then at the beginning of June, I was able to come back to Kyiv.”

“That was very hard – my apartment and everything around reminded me of those first 48 hours of the invasion. Even waking up in the morning in my apartment was scary because I thought I would wake up again to the sounds of explosions. I still do, sometimes, but we’re not scared anymore. I mainly feel so happy and privileged to have my home because I almost lost it.

“I was also really lucky to find a new job that related to helping Ukraine and providing different types of aid to Ukraine. That’s a kind of unexpected, positive outcome from this entire tragedy – I was able to find a job that I really love. Prior to the invasion, I was working for a consulting company and I wasn’t really happy there.”

ANNA, 19

“On February 24, 2022, I was in Boston, USA, with my boyfriend at that time. We went to the gym in the evening – I finished earlier than him and went back to our house. I took a shower and went to bed and had almost fallen asleep when I got a text message from my Russian friend, saying: ‘Anna, I am sorry.’ I didn’t know what was going on yet, so I was really surprised and confused. Then right after that, I got a message from my mum. She texted me, ‘The war has started.’ I called her and she was packing her stuff, while I could hear bombing in the background. It was horrible.

“Then my boyfriend, who is also Ukrainian, came in. He didn’t know what was happening yet, so I had to break the bad news to him. We spent the whole night sleepless, alternating on the phone, in case something happened to our relatives and friends. We couldn’t eat or do anything for almost a week. I slept with a fear of waking up to one of my family members being dead. That’s an awful feeling. While I was not in Ukraine during the invasion, I was living through it as if I were there.

“Since then, I have come to terms with the fact that I will not return to live at home for the next few years. I’ve visited Ukraine twice during this invasion – I missed it so much I couldn’t help myself. But it was scary. Once you enter Ukraine you see block posts everywhere, soldiers, tanks. There’s the air raid alert that you hear every day, and you have to go to the shelter until it finishes. But to be honest, after three weeks there I kind of got used to the bombing – it sounds horrible, but we can get used to everything. I know for sure, that once the war finishes, I will move back, because it is the only place I want to live in.”


“February 24, 2022 felt like a film, it was so surreal. I don’t think anyone in Ukraine believed that such things would happen, at such a scale. 

“My dad drove me and my boyfriend, who is from Manchester, to Lviv, which is very close to the Polish border. It’s normally an hour and 15-minute drive, but it took us ten hours as there were lots of cars taking the same journey as us. We made it to Lviv on the evening of the 24th and decided to go to the border the next morning. We had to queue there for 23 hours, without any food, water, or toilet facilities. That was the hardest thing for me – I had started my period and had no access to a toilet, no sanitary products, nothing. I was just bleeding through my jeans and had terrible cramps. Eventually, we got to the Polish side, where they had toilets – it felt like finally being treated like a human after 23 hours of inhumane treatment.

“We then could fly into Manchester after we put pressure on the UK Home Office to grant me something called a visa waiver. A couple of weeks later they finally opened all of the schemes for Ukrainians and I was able to apply for a family visa, on the grounds that I’m engaged to a British national – my boyfriend.

“The past year has not been easy. I am lucky in many, many ways – the UK is not unfamiliar to me: I’ve lived here before, can speak the language, and I have my partner and a support network. My mum also came over to join us in the UK in mid-April, and she’s been living with us since then in our house in Manchester. That’s a bit of a challenge in itself: it’s a small house so it’s quite difficult space-wise. But I’m glad she’s safe. The rest of my family is still in Ukraine. I’ve not been back to Ukraine since leaving, so I’ve not seen my dad for exactly one year. I last saw my brother on February 12, 2022, when we went for a walk. My grandma passed away a few months ago, too, on Christmas Day and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to say goodbye to her or attend the funeral.

“I lost my friend last year, too, Maks Levin – he was a photojournalist and videographer, and he was amazing at his job. He was working in the Kyiv region while it was occupied when Russians captured and tortured him – there was a whole investigation about it by Reporters Without Borders. It was a very difficult day – I think the war and things like that don’t fully feel real to you until you lose someone who was close to you. That’s when it really, really hit me hard, that day.

“I’ve also started this initiative of free walking tours of Manchester in Ukrainian, for Ukrainians living here now. We did the first one last May and had more than 100 people sign up for it. It was incredible. We did several more – so far, I’ve introduced Manchester to more than 400 Ukrainians. I’ve got a qualification now too as an interpreter, and have been interpreting for lots of Ukrainians in the north of England.

“We will go back when Ukraine wins. I can’t wait to go back. I really miss everything about Ukraine. Ukraine will win, I’m 100 per cent sure about that – it’s just a matter of when that will happen.”

Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.