A Ukrainian woman living in Bristol says she fears for the lives of her family, including her 74-year-old mother, as Russia invades her home country.
Vera Standon-Postavska put down roots in the city in 2002 after marrying a Bristol man, but says she is still a Ukrainian ‘deep within her heart’ and feels helpless as reports flood in that ‘hundreds’ have already been killed.
Russian military vehicles are reported to have breached Ukraine’s border in a number of places, in the north, south and east, following overnight attacks from the sky.
Vera, a mum-of-three, said: “My emotions are off the roof right now.
“I’ve been watching what’s happening on TV, crying, shouting and then just sat there in disbelief.
“I see the grid-locked cars trying to get out of Kyiv and think, where are they going? There is nowhere for them to flee to.”
As her elderly mother is living in Lviv, near the Polish border, Vera hoped she along with her brother’s family would be safe.
But she says her mother told her this morning that military bases in nearby cities had been attacked, leaving her ‘upset and frightened’.
“I’m worried for my family and I’m worried about what’s going to happen to my country and its democracy,” said Vera.
“Ukraine were under Russian rule during the Soviet era, and my Grandma used to tell me some horrible stories.
“I don’t want history to repeat itself. I don’t want innocent people to die.
“I’d like to bring my family over here but it’s not like they can just jump on a plane.”
Although tensions have been ongoing for years, Vera admitted she never imagined they would escalate into full-blown war.
She said: “Although there was talk of Russian troops building up, nobody believed it would really happen.
“I know Ukraine is perceived as Eastern Europe, but it’s actually in the heart of Europe and its biggest country.
“It has a history, culture and deep roots. Ukraine is a free nation. We never thought a war with bombs exploding would happen in this century in Europe.”
What are Vera’s feelings towards the Russian people currently? She says blames ‘one person only’ for the crisis in Ukraine.
“Russia itself has so many problems. Moscow is a rich region, but go deeper and many live in poverty,” she said.
“Instead of looking after his people, Putin is starting war left, right and centre across Europe.
“I don’t blame Russian people, I studied in Russia for four years and they are lovely people.
“They listen to the proganda and many don’t have access to proper news. They are just as much a victim.”
While Vera doesn’t believe any sanctions the UK impose on Russia will ‘make any difference’, she has asked Bristolians to donate to appeals that have been set up in aid of Ukraine if they can.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show there are around 1,000 Ukrainian people and 3,000 Russians living in the South West.