‘We’re still ready to fight’: Ukrainian community in London on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion

Ukrainians in London are reflecting on the Russian invasion, two years since the fighting began.
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“Almost every single family in Ukraine has been affected, no matter whether you lost your home, you had to leave your home or you lost someone,” said Natalia Ravliuk, reflecting two years on since Russia invaded her country.

Ms Ravliuk, co-founder of British-Ukrainian Aid and director of Support Ukraine/London Euromaidan, is one of the thousands of Ukrainians in London who have been relentlessly supporting the war effort, 1,500 miles from the frontline.

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The patriotic mother-of-three from Chelsea has spent the last two years sending tonnes of medical supplies and humanitarian aid to her home country, while protesting three times a week outside Downing Street. She has given up her job to dedicate her efforts to helping her country.

More than 9,600 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since the war started on February 24 2022, according to the most recent figures released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as well as 17,748 injured.

More than six million refugees from Ukraine are scattered across Europe according to figures from the UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency. The figure is around 14% of the country's population.

Roughly 31.6 million people left Ukraine at the beginning of the year, while 20.8 million have since returned to the country.

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Ms Ravliuk, whose family are based in the Ivano Frankivsk region in western Ukraine, went home to visit this month for the first time since before the Russian invasion.

Natalia Ravliuk with her daughter at a protestNatalia Ravliuk with her daughter at a protest
Natalia Ravliuk with her daughter at a protest

“In Ukraine, I was happy and sad because I was really happy to see my parents and my family, my sister and my niece,” Ms Ravliuk told LondonWorld. “But I was very sad and frightened, really by the situation around, because even though I was in western Ukraine, where there is no military action - it's not front line - there are sirens there everyday and you have to go to the shelter.

“There is uncertainty everywhere. The people don't know what's going to happen or whether they are safe. Nobody's safe because when you have a missile from Russia, it can land anywhere.

“The last time I was home was before the big invasion. People were full of hope. People were planning something. There were many more people around. 

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“A lot of people have left, particularly women and children. Now people have their heads down. They don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.  Especially when someone has a husband or a brother or son at the frontline. It's a completely different Ukraine.”

Ms Ravliuk said she has been feeling “emotional” since returning home as she had to leave her family behind and feels guilty about being back to safety.

Natalia Ravliuk, co-founder of British-Ukrainian Aid and director of Support Ukraine/London EuromaidanNatalia Ravliuk, co-founder of British-Ukrainian Aid and director of Support Ukraine/London Euromaidan
Natalia Ravliuk, co-founder of British-Ukrainian Aid and director of Support Ukraine/London Euromaidan

As part of her volunteering work, Ms Ravliuk had been sending military supplies from London to the frontline, and she was horrified to learn that one of the soldiers she had helped in her hometown had been killed.

Tearing up, she described the turmoil of the last two years: “This is a constant nightmare, constant hell on earth. We have not enough missiles, we have not enough people. They are so large the Russian army, they are just bombing and bombing and bombing every single day. The Russians are targeting civilians, they’re bombing schools, hospitals and kindergartens.”

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Despite the relentless nature of war, Ms Ravliuk is confident of the resilience of the Ukrainian soldiers.

“They're not going to give up. They are not afraid. They're not scared but we feel like we’ve been left a little bit alone.”

The Ukrainian community in London has organised a march on Saturday February 24 to pay tribute to the people of Ukraine who lost their lives and to the soldiers.

“Basically, we are calling out for international communities to come and join us for a march on the 24th,” said Ms Ravliuk.

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“It's basically 10 years of war but two years of big scale war, big invasion, unprovoked, outrageous disastrous war. 

“Many cities have been destroyed, many people have been killed. A lot of children have been stolen from our country and kidnapped. We want to remind the whole world about what's happening in Ukraine and it's not going to end until we have a victory.”

People are asked to gather at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park at 1.30pm, with the procession to Trafalgar Square beginning at 2pm. A vigil will then be held in Trafalgar Square from 4pm to 5.30pm.