Yeva Mokranska standing in front of a tree near a road
Yeva Mokranska in Ukraine. Credit: Yeva Mokranska

The morning of February 24, 2022, changed the lives of many when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. A refugee scheme by the UK government was arranged very quickly, enabling Ukrainians to flee the country and settle with UK residents. Several charities also sprang up to help.

Yeva Mokranska, 20, was able to flee Kyiv to Horncastle, Lincolnshire. She spoke about fleeing the city, adapting to life in the UK, and what she struggles with nearly a year on from the attack.

Recounting the morning of the invasion, Yeva said that her boyfriend woke her up to the sound of explosions. “We decided immediately that we’re leaving we’re and going to the safest place,” she said.

“It was the worst morning in my life.

“We were sitting together in the underground in the cabs and they moving so fast that I’ve never before in my life. You’re sitting around people that are thinking exactly the same as you, how can it happen? Why is this happening to our country? Nobody understands.

“I was in tears. My tears just dropped and my boyfriend was like ‘Are you right?’ I was like how can I be all right in this situation? We can die any moment right now.”

Once Yeva arrived in the UK it took her a while to adapt to life in the country. She’d always dreamt of visiting England, but she had never thought that she would be forced to come here as a refugee fleeing from her home.

“I was like, I can’t believe that it’s happening to me. Well, I was dreaming of visiting this country in the first year of school. We used to learn English and I really like England. So for me visiting this country was my dream of my childhood.”

One of the hardest things that Yeva had to adapt to was finding out that RAF Coningsby, one of the two quick reaction alert bases in the UK, is less than nine miles from Horncastle. The planes flying overheard would remind her of Russian bombers back in Ukraine, so it would frighten Yeva for a while afterward.

“I got used to hearing every single plane and I was like, oh God, here we go again. And it was so scary. I spent about two months just getting used to it, reminding myself that it was just a plane and everything was alright. I won’t get bombed right now. I won’t die.”

But there are several parts of life in the UK that do make Yeva happy to be in the country. She has a job working as a bartender and waitress at the Bull Hote in Horncastle, and she says that it’s helpful for her to get by. Another thing that’s helped her get used to being in the UK is making new friends.

“I think my friends here is the happiest thing that happened to me because I never have experienced these kinds of friendship. People around me are like, they are awesome. I am really lucky I got all of them.”

Another thing that makes Yeva happy is learning English slang. Back in Ukraine, they don’t say cheers, and while they learned English, they spoke it formally. “We don’t say ‘right cheers mate’ or anything like this,” she says.

“Yeah, I would get it, like it took me one month to clearly understand. I’ve got a friend of mine from work, Robyn, and once I was talking to her about work things and she was like, ‘Wow you sound so English right now.’

“I think slang is my favourite in English,” she adds.

But while Yeva is amused by the slang that is used in conversations, she struggles much more to understand people when she talks to people over the phone. The heavy accents that people have make this issue worse. It’s something that she encounters in her job at the Bull and it is something that can upset her.

“I cried so many times. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. To understand a phone call is way harder because you’re not clearly hearing the voice. Like I know that I know English but I can’t understand it. I call it phone call English. It’s a completely different language for me to learn.”

Yeva is still unsure whether she will stay in the UK or go home back to Ukraine after the war. She says that her family is in Ukraine, and she has to do what’s best for her.

“I have family in Ukraine and my boyfriend as well, it’s really hard for him to be in a long-distance relationship. But the state Ukraine is in, economically, and its infrastructure. It will take ages to renew it to make the country like it was before the war. And, the thing is, before the war, it wasn’t good either.

“It’s a life-changing decision,” she says.