Today marks one year since the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
We spoke to two Ukrainians, Olga and Oleksii, who have come to Scotland to seek safety and now live in Glasgow.
Olga has a seven-year-old girl who now attends primary school in the city.
“When she first started school she cried because she couldn’t speak any English, only Polish,” says Olga. “Now, she has made a lot of friends, including a Polish girl and many Scottish girls.”
Olga and her daughter have been placed in a hotel in the city centre since June 2022.
“It’s okay. It’s a hotel, you know?” says Olga. “It doesn’t have a kitchen. We can’t cook, we can’t clean.”
“It’s not very healthy for kids. You can buy things from shops but nothing that you need to prepare.”
Olga is searching for work and has been spending her time filling in job applications. She is struggling with because of the language barrier and because of her childcare needs.
They are both anxious to leave the hotel and set up homes. Olga feels tied to Glasgow because her daughter is settling into her school, but she is open to moving to another part of the country.
“I prefer smaller towns to big cities,” she says.
Olga and Oleksii have been trying to visit other towns and cities in Scotland when they can. Olga says she loved Dunbar and seeing the ocean.
Oleksii spends a lot of his time playing for the Amputee Football Association Scotland.
Growing up, Oleksii loved football and played from childhood up till the age of 23.
He was waiting for physio treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow when he saw a leaflet for the team.
“My dream of playing football has come true.”
As well as continuing to play football, Oleksii hopes to open his own cleaning company in Scotland. At the moment he is filling in mountains of paperwork and seeing if he can get a businesses off the ground.
“You can’t get credit if you have lived in Scotland for less than three years,” he explains.
When asked about the future, both Olga and Oleksii seem very uncertain.
“All of our plans have died,” says Olga. “Six months ago, victory for Ukraine seemed close. Now, it feels very far away.”
Both Olga and Oleksii have family who are still in Ukraine and feel unable to leave.
Although both Olga and Oleksii are grateful to be safe, they both say they don’t feel at home in Scotland yet.
“Honestly, it is very hard. The language barrier is difficult. Finding employment is difficult. The mentality here is so different. Everything is very different, you drive on the other side of the road here.”
Despite struggling to settle into Scottish life, they both stress that they feel lucky to be safe.
“Here, we don’t really have any problems. We have a doctor, we have food, we have school, we have the hotel”, says Olga.
“We don’t live on the street, we don’t see Russian soldiers.
“It is very very difficult for people in Ukraine. By comparison, we are in paradise.
“It’s a horrible situation, we are grateful not to be in it.”
Another tricky element is the food on offer in Glasgow. Having no kitchen means the food they have access to is very limited. Both Olga and Oleksii say it would make a big difference to their lives if they had more access to Ukrainian food.
“Scottish food is not like Ukrainian food. In Ukraine, our food is a big of mix cuisines; Italian and Polish and many more.”
They do single out two Scottish delicacies they enjoy: haggis and black pudding.
Olga says that black pudding reminds her of a food from home – kravianka – which is a small sausage made from buck-wheat and pig’s blood.
When asked if anything has surprised them about Scotland, they both say the same thing: the people.
“The Scottish people have surprised us. They are so kind, friendly, always have a smile on their face. Everyone says ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me.’ It’s not like that in Ukraine.”
One year on from the beginning of the war against Ukraine, find out more about our response.
Meet some of the incredible volunteers who have been welcoming Ukrainians at Glasgow airport.
Click here to see the information and advice we can offer people arriving from Ukraine.Ukraine