family who fled Ukraine after the Russian invasion have praised the kindness they have been shown by the British people as they urged the UK to keep supplying their country’s fighters with even more powerful weapons.
Pavlo Romaniukha, 41, moved to Sheffield in May last year with his wife Rymma Parkhomenko-Romaniukha, 31, and their 10-year-old son Dmytro.
Mr Romaniukha said he and his family have been touched by the welcome they have received but, on the eve of the anniversary of the Russian invasion, he warned that Vladimir Putin has to be defeated because his aggression will not stop with Ukraine.
We still don’t understand why he would want to invade our country because, before, we lived like good neighbours. Can you imagine Scotland invading your country, or you invading Scotland?
He told the PA news agency: “If Ukraine lost now, who would be next?
“I hope the English people don’t need to fight in this war.
“I speak with a lot of Ukrainian soldiers and we just need more weapons – more powerful weapons.
“If we don’t win we will still fight. It will be years and years and years and what will be next?
“The Ukraine people never say ‘we give up’, never.
“We still don’t understand why he would want to invade our country because, before, we lived like good neighbours.
“Can you imagine Scotland invading your country, or you invading Scotland?”
Mr Romaniukha was working in Poland when the Russians invaded on February 24, and his wife and son stayed in western Ukraine for two months until they decided it was too dangerous and fled to join him.
They decided to move to South Yorkshire from a Polish refugee centre after getting in touch with sponsors from Sheffield through the website established to pair up displaced Ukrainians with UK families.
After a few weeks living with their sponsors in the village of Oughtibridge, the family moved into a house in the Netherthorpe area – Mr Romaniukha working as a fork-lift driver and Mrs Parkhomenko-Romaniukha as a part-time cleaner.
Dmytro, who is preparing for his Sats in Year 6 at the local primary school, recalled how frightening it was in the two months before he and his mother left their home.
He said: “There was always a lot of time with the sound of alarms for bombs going to our city.
“We were waiting in the corridor in the flat or going to school because they had a place to hide from the bombs.
“The Russians could shoot at schools and we could die every minute, so we were so scared.”
English people for me are like an example of kindness. They open their houses to strangers
Dmytro desperately wants to move back to his home in Ukraine, missing his friends and his sport-filled life – especially his judo which was just starting to bring him a cabinet full of trophies when he had to flee.
He said: “I hope that, when it’s finished and everything will be good, I can go back to my country I like so much, so I can live my old life in Ukraine.”
His mother wiped away tears as she spoke about missing home, describing how some of her family are living in central Ukraine where children walk straight into school bomb shelters every morning and warning sirens sound every day.
But Mr Romaniukha said he has just over two years left on his permission to stay in the UK and he hopes his family have the option to stay after that.
He said: “I understand but, in reality, it would be a really difficult life in Ukraine so I expect we will stay for a minimum of this permit.”
He added that so many people have helped them since they arrived in Sheffield, especially the sponsor family who put them up, helped them find jobs and a house of their own, and even invited them back for Christmas.
He said: “English people for me are like an example of kindness. They open their houses to strangers.”
More than 700 Ukrainian people have been welcomed to Sheffield over the last year and the Romaniukha family joins in as the community comes together to fly the country’s flag in the city and celebrate their culture.
Dmytro keeps in touch with Ukrainian schooling through the Stay With Ukraine project, which works in parallel with his UK education.
His father said the scheme, which is supported by Theirworld, the global children’s charity founded by Sarah Brown – wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown – is vital for keeping Dmytro in touch with his country’s language and heritage.
Mr Romaniukha said: “He will never stay an Englishman, he will always be Ukrainian.”