‘I am terrified for their lives’- expats in Derbyshire and Ukrainian Spireites express fears on Russian invasion

Ukrainians in Derbyshire, or with links to the county, have spoken to the Derbyshire Times about their fears following the Russian invasion of their country on Thursday.

Monday, 28th February 2022, 1:13 pm

Although the conflict is on the other side of the continent, its impact is being felt by both Ukrainian expats in our county, and those with close Derbyshire connections who remain in Eastern Europe.

Dana is Ukrainian, but currently lives with her family in Dronfield. She said her friends in the country are terrified, and that she felt absolutely helpless as she watched the invasion unfold.

“People are scared to talk as phones are being listened to, and everyone is scared of being labelled to be on either side at the moment.

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People demonstrate in support of Ukraine in Whitehall outside of Downing Street the residence of the Boris Johnson on February 25, 2022 in London. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“The feeling of having loved ones so far away and not being able to do anything at all is a torture. I am terrified for their lives, I also feel absolutely useless as I can't do anything, I can't help.

“It is the worst when you can't help your loved ones.”

One of Dana’s friends is Anastasya, who lives in Kyiv, but is currently attempting to cross the border into Poland. She said that Russian soldiers were entering Ukraine’s capital, and that while Putin has claimed that troops are focusing on military targets, civilians have been injured and killed in the city.

“There are Russian soldiers in Kyiv, and there is Russian military equipment. They rampage and attack civilians, not just military targets. Two kindergartens were under attack by soldiers in the Kiev region- in one case, everyone survived, unfortunately not in the second one.

Volodymyr, perhaps the biggest Chesterfield fan in Eastern Europe, with his father in Lviv.

“Leaving Kiev early in the morning is not very difficult- during the day it is more difficult. But getting to the border is quite hard with traffic. There are not many safe ways, there is a high risk of coming under fire on the way, and there are problems with getting fuel.”

Anastasya said she was trying to remain calm for her children, and urged politicians in the UK to take action to save Ukraine.

“It does not fit in my head, how this can happen in the 21st century in the centre of Europe- it's like a nightmare. I am very scared for my kids, taking into account the fact that the Russian military does not pay attention to who they are shooting at - children, women, military, civilians, they do not care.

“I have two daughters - 12 and nine years old. My husband and I try very hard to do everything to make them calm, but during the shelling when explosions are heard, it is very difficult. They are very frightened, especially the youngest - it is very difficult to be a source of stability for a child when you do not fully feel it.

Volodymyr Holod holds up an article he wrote about Chesterfield for a Ukrainian sports newspaper

“Russian soldiers captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and after the capture, the readings of the radiation level sensors jumped- I hope everyone understands what this could mean for the whole world. I’m scared to think about why this is happening and what orders the Russian military has for this.

“It is critically important to close the sky over Ukraine and turn off Swift for Russia. We believe with all our hearts in our army, but I beg you to help us. For the sake of our children and our lives.”

Volodymyr Holod is another Ukrainian with links to the area. He lives near Lviv, in Western Ukraine, but said that he fell in love with Chesterfield by chance after discovering the Spireites while playing the FIFA video game.

“It is a long story. I played FIFA and chose Chesterfield as my team. Later I honestly fell in love with the club - with its colours, its brilliant history, personalities like Ernie Moss and this unique community. Now I say that my best friends live in Chesterfield.

“The Spireites are my big love, if not the biggest after my family. I love to listen to the games, I love to read about the club, I love to chat with my friends - it is my life and I'm proud of it.”

Volodymyr has built up a reputation as one of Chesterfield’s most dedicated fans, despite the distance between Lviv and North Derbyshire. He said that people in the city are trying to continue with their lives as normal, but concerns were growing that Russian forces might soon descend on Lviv.

“My Mum woke me up and said "the war has begun". I knew it was a Russian dream to conquer Ukraine, but still tried to live my life as usual. Many Ukrainians are trying to live their life as usual.

“We know that Putin loves his imperialistic myth, but we still were hoping to survive as an independent country. We knew what would happen, but, still, we were hoping for better. And now, when Russians invade Kyiv, we have less and less hope.

“Lviv is relatively peaceful at this moment, at least, but Russia is unpredictable and they clearly see Lviv as their target in the future. Many people are leaving their homes in eastern Ukraine and are heading to Lviv, but we can often hear aircrafts or air raid alerts.”

While the situation remains uncertain, Volodymyr said that he was grateful for the outpouring of support from the people of Chesterfield, including Toby Perkins, and that he hoped to join his fellow Spireites by listening to the match against Yeovil Town tomorrow.

“We are thankful to the people in Chesterfield and to the people in the UK. They are incredible - it just underlines that my friends are the best in the world. We are, on the other side, upset by the reaction of some countries, like Germany or Italy, regarding new sanctions for Russia.

“We are also thankful to our friend, Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins. His strong position is priceless for us, I just wish more politicians across the globe had the same attitude.

“I'm looking forward to listening to the next game of my beloved Spireites. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but I hope it will be the voice of our friend Phil Tooley. We can't plan anything for tomorrow, but we can hope that it will be another peaceful matchday like it was before.”