A WOMAN who fled war-torn Ukraine and found safety in Bradford has spoken of her journey, as Friday marks the first anniversary of the Russian invasion.

Nadia Filatova’s world turned upside down when she and her seven-year-old son were forced to flee Ukraine in March last year, shortly after the conflict began.

Nadia and her son are from Kharkiv, near the Russian border, and had to leave friends and family behind as they sought refuge elsewhere.

“It was very dangerous, we had to leave in an evacuation train,” said Nadia, 36, who lives with her son in Great Horton.

“There were 20 people in one cabin on the train. It was very difficult for my son.

“My brother is still in Ukraine, he’s fighting on the frontline. I’m worried for him, for my mother and for my husband, who is also still there.”

When asked if she is hopeful of her family joining her in the UK, Nadia responded: “Hopefully we will go back to Ukraine, before they come here. Bradford has been amazing, but we want to go back home.

“We feel like we are homeless.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Nadia has begun a new life in BradfordNadia has begun a new life in Bradford (Image: Nadia Filatova)

Nadia was the director of a school in Ukraine. She now works a part-time job and is enrolled on three college courses in Bradford.

“I’m doing my GCSEs in maths and English, and I’m doing a teaching assistant course,” she said.

“We’ve lived with a very good host family in Bradford, who have provided us with everything we need. We are very lucky.

“All Ukrainians are very grateful to the open-minded people of Bradford who have supported us. They have a very big heart.

“We’re also happy that there is already a Ukrainian community here, that helps a lot.”

As Nadia references, Bradford has been home to many people of Ukrainian heritage long before last year’s war began.

One member of this community is Ewhen Chymera, director of The Bradford Ukrainian Club on Legrams Lane.

All four of Ewhen’s grandparents are Ukrainian and settled in the North of England following the Second World War.

“It’s been a tough year, and it only continues,” said Ewhen, who grew up in Liversedge and Cleckheaton, and now lives in Gildersome.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ewhen Chymera with Wahid Rashid, refugee engagement coordinator at Bradford Council, last yearEwhen Chymera with Wahid Rashid, refugee engagement coordinator at Bradford Council, last year (Image: Wahid Rashid)

The 35-year-old still has cousins in Ukraine, some of whom live near the Russian border.

“Every time a message comes, we’re worried a family member may have been lost,” he said.

“Missiles and drones are flying over civilian areas, it’s a frightening place to be.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A memorial is finished up at The Ukrainian Club yesterday, as we approach the first anniversary of the Russian invasionA memorial is finished up at The Ukrainian Club yesterday, as we approach the first anniversary of the Russian invasion (Image: Telegraph & Argus)

Ewhen’s grandparents lived in the Lviv area. After the Nazis invaded Ukraine, many were taken as prisoners of war and carried out forced labour.

His grandparents came to England after the war to fill labour shortages – one side of the family moved to Oldham, while the other came to Bradford, where they established The Ukrainian Club.

“They set it up with their own funds – they started schools, drama groups, whatever people wanted. We’re living and breathing today because of them,” he said.

A new wave of Ukrainians are now making Bradford their home.

“There are around 250 Ukrainian refugees in Bradford, and another thousand across West Yorkshire,” he said.

“We started English lessons at the club, we continue to run them, coffee mornings and trips out, amongst other initiatives.

“They’ve faced language barriers, and many have psychological issues. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the coverage Ukraine had recently with Biden’s visit, but that also brings back tough memories. They’ve suffered things we can’t imagine.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

To mark the one-year anniversary, several events are being held in Bradford.

At 11am today, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Martin Love, will lead a minute’s silence in front of City Hall.

At 6pm, Bradford Cathedral will host a vigil, while at 10.30am on Saturday, a memorial will be unveiled at The Ukrainian Club.

At the same venue, at 12pm, the Bradford branch of the Association of Ukrainian Women will host Unbreakable Ukrainian Women.

“These events will also allow us to remember those who have lost their lives,” said Ewhen.

“For some, it will also be a celebration and an opportunity to thank people in Bradford for the incredible support they’ve given.”