Having raised over £2,000 on the night for Ukraine-facing British charities, with all tickets sold, we settled down in our comfortable seats apprehensive that we would be listening to some uncomfortable, often tragic news. Yuri and Elena, two Ukrainians who settled in England some years ago, left a large and happy family behind whom they visited regularly. They joined us for the screening of OLGA, a pre-release film that presages the events of today.
Yuri first: My sister and niece managed to get out of Kyiv and we are busy helping them to settle in. No easy task, with delays testing the mother and child refugees on a perilous journey. ‘We are deeply affected by the war. I still can’t process that this peaceful and beautiful country is being bombarded by Russian troops. At the same time, we are trying to do anything we can to help. Indiscriminate bombing and killing are hitting innocent citizens and destroying our towns and villages’.
Their aged parents are at home near Kyiv airport which has been all but destroyed. Like many others, they are unwilling to budge in what must be a life-threatening situation when even the young and elderly are eager to pick up a machine gun and face the enemy. ‘We are grateful for the support from Britain. The Russians must be stopped before they succeed here’.
Elena explained her family history. Like most Ukrainians, she also speaks Russian. Her family is almost evenly spread over both countries. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Ukraine chose to look to the West when freedom arrived, displeasing the Russian leadership.
Protests by Ukrainians centered on Maidan Square, Kyiv, often bloody, eventually replacing a corrupt communist government and leading to the installation of freely elected leadership in 2014. After acts of poisoning and killing here and abroad by the KGB, much saber-rattling by the Russian troops led to their incursion and the present-day war which pits neighbours and relatives against each other. Elena: ‘I phoned a relative in Russia. The conversation did not last long as I was being accused of war-mongering, stopping our conversation in its tracks’. An emotional admission. ‘Thank you Britain, thank you, British people, your support is amazing’.
An emotional evening followed by a special performance of our excellent films re-telling the terrifying events of 2014.
Thank you, Yuri and Elena, we wish you well.