July 23, 2022 7.30 am This story is over 16 months old

Ukrainian journalist and refugee eternally grateful for Lincolnshire hosts

Hanna covered the war from a bunker before fleeing the country

A Ukrainian political and TV news journalist who covered the conflict from a bunker while bomb sirens sounded across Kyiv, has praised the “beautiful UK” for the support she has been given since arriving as a refugee.

Hanna Dzoba- known as Anna Dzoba in Ukraine – her partner Dima, and their family, are currently being hosted in Branston as part of the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

The 27-year-old is one of more than 120 learners who have have taken places in more than 30 courses organised for refugees from the Ukraine conflict in partnership with Lincoln College.

Hanna’s experience started after receiving a call from coworkers at the Ukrainian TV Channel Priyami at 5am on February 24.

“My colleague called and said ‘Anna, don’t worry but war has started’ and my first thoughts were ‘what? It’s a joke, what’s happened? Can it be real? I can’t believe it.'”

She was given two hours to come to terms with what had happened before she went to work – but not all her colleagues attended due to the danger.

Hanna in her role as political TV journalist. | Photo: Supplied

Over the next few days Hanna saw her city transform as transport was stopped, while underground stations became make-shift hospitals.

Air sirens rang out across the city. “I just went walking to my job – almost 10 kilometres – and all the time the air siren was going off.

“I was thinking ‘What are you doing? Why are you going to your job? Why are you not at home right now with your family?

“But then I think again, ‘no, stop, you must do it because you know everything about the Ukrainian Russian conflict and you must help people who right now are scared like you.”

Hanna hiding in a parking lot on the second day of the war. | Photo: supplied

From the second day of the war, Hanna and her team lived, slept, ate and worked in a bunker office, updating people via live broadcasts, interviewing key people such as ministers and government spokespeople, and working in two-four hour shifts to keep people informed.

“Maybe after the first 15 days I felt like my mind was broken, because it was very hard work without sleep, staying without my family, sometimes I didn’t have the time to call them.

“It was a very scary situation for me, that first time it was scary when the air sirens rang, but after 10 days people were saying ‘oh it’s not a problem, I can stay at home, I can walk on the street, it’s ok’.”

Her TV station set up a makeshift office while they carried on broadcasting live. | Photo: Supplied

She said it got to the point where people hearing the air raid siren just said “oh my god, I’m so tired, I want to sleep, I just won’t go to the bunker, it’s just not for me, I want sleep, go to hell Russian people”.

On March 8 a rocket landed within a kilometre of her home. “After that, we started to think we must do it right now [leave] because it was very dangerous for us to stay in Kyiv.

“Everyone was shocked, and my boyfriend asked me ‘what do you want to do right now?’ and I just sat and said ‘I don’t know, I don’t understand what’s happened with me, my city, my walls and my life.

“I just know that I want to hug my mother.” In the end they decided to go to their parents in their home city of Kamianske, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, that same day.

What should have been a six hour trip, took a whole day, and when they arrived their parents said they had found a place to escape to in Bulgaria.

Four hours later they started the trip at dawn to the border, a trip that should have taken 10-12 hours — but it took six whole days.

“We had to constantly change our route due to rocket attacks,” said Hanna.

“For example, when we were 20km from Vinnytsia, the rocket attack on the city began. From that moment on, I did not appear on the air of the TV channel, but from time to time I helped with news.”

After that they travelled through Romania to Bulgaria, where they stayed with friends until Hanna found out about the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Staff worked, ate, slept and lived in the makeshift basement office during the early days of the conflict. | Photo: Supplied

She applied for a spot for her and Dima’s family and thankfully were able to find generous hosts Helen and Richard Green in Branston.

“They opened the door to us in their house and decided we could stay with them, it was very surprising for everyone.”

Since arriving Hanna and her family praised the generosity of the British people, the donations of clothing and other items for refugees.

“Great Britain is very full of care, they just try to do everything for us, they tried helping us with the English language, with all the documents,” she said.

“It’s very beautiful, it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people.”

However, there was some reminiscence when she added: “I think everyone one of us who has come here, we just miss our home.”

Hanna with her mother. | Photo: Supplied

Since arriving in the UK, Hanna has taken part in a number of activities including a “Lady Book Club” and a meeting group for Ukrainian people to meet their hosts, and even help each other learn English.

Not long after, she and Dima also signed up for English language courses with Lincoln College, firstly with other nationalities and then in groups specifically designed for Ukrainian refugees.

They include one-to-one lessons and homework such as writing letters, watching movies in English and learning song lyrics.

Despite only doing one or two English courses while growing up and in University in Ukraine, Hanna’s grasp of the language is coming along well, though she admits there is still space for improvement.

“They give us a lot of information about how the English language uses tenses… and they teach us how to write, grammar and how to speak.

Hanna and her partner Dima with hosts Helen and Richard Green. | Photo: Supplied

Nearly 800 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Lincolnshire so far, and local councils say they need more hosts.

The refugees comes from a wide variety of stories and backgrounds.

Many are women, some with children, and they have left their husbands and partners back home in the war-affected country.

They include teenagers applying for university places and along with software developers, lawyers, senior managers, architects, scientists.

For more information, or to apply becoming a host, email: [email protected].