Escaping Ukraine and finding refuge in Tunbridge Wells

Co-founder of Pickering - Polly Taylor

‘I drove for three days to fetch my mother from the warzone’

Ksenia has been in the UK for 17 years and moved to Tunbridge Wells during lockdown, she explained to the Times when we met her at the TN2 centre. 

She said when war broke out her mother Liudmila was in Dnipro, in east Ukraine, and her sister and nephew, Masha and Misha were in Kyiv.

“When I learned what had happened, I got in the car in England and went to the border of Romania,” Ksenia said. 

“It took me three and a half days to get there, but the whole trip was 22 days, and it was a very difficult experience because we spent two weeks in France.

“We were in Paris [waiting for a visa] for two weeks. My sister cried every day. She received her visa two days before her son.”

Liudmila told the Times she had been to the UK many times since her daughter had moved here, but this time was different. She is not visiting people she knows and exploring Tunbridge Wells, and she finds it difficult to contact old friends.

“I don’t really want to,” she said. “I also don’t really call my female friends who have scattered. Sometimes I talk to them.  

“But I need to concentrate [on what they are saying] and it’s a lot to take in. It’s difficult. I’m grateful to my daughter, who is really taking care of me. “We live on faith, hope and love.

“Faith that everything will be all right,” added Ksenia. “It’s clear that everyone is helping. We thank everyone so much.”


Ksenia and her mother Liudmila




‘My husband is back in Sumy fighting the Russian army’

The Times also met Tetiana (pictured in main image), whose husband is a professional soldier and still in Ukraine fighting the Russians.

She explains that she left her hometown of Sumy on the first day of the war, with the couple’s 16 and 12-year-old sons, fleeing first into central Ukraine, then to the west. 

“That was the first thing, to save them from the war. They are adolescents. They are only just beginning to live,” she said, adding: “They are our children. They are the continuation of the Ukrainian people and we have to protect them.”

She explained she was still in contact with her husband, but added: “My husband calls sometimes, but the conversations aren’t long, because first of all, it’s not safe for him. 

“The few words he’s able to say are that everything is fine with him. That is already enough for me,” she explained to the Times before beginning to cry.

She continued: “It’s such a pleasure that people want to listen to Ukrainian people and it is very important that people are listening to us. 

“We are very grateful to the people of the UK, for accepting us with open doors and open hearts. It’s very important to us. Very important.”

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