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‘I call my dad like it could be the last time’: Ukraine refugee on war and life in Oxfordshire

Anastasia Shpot and her mother Natalia. Picture: Dorchester Regeneration/PA
Anastasia Shpot and her mother Natalia. Picture: Dorchester Regeneration/PA

A UKRAINIAN refugee has revealed what life has been like since the Russian invasion of her home country.

Anastasia Shpot, 16, arrived in the UK on May 26 with her mother Natalia, 42, and two sisters Yulia, 17, and nine-year-old Victoria.

The teenager’s father, Victor, had to leave the family at the Polish border to stay behind and fight, with Anastasia saying she speaks to him every day like it ‘could be the last time we speak’.

She recalled the moment the war began, in February.

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“We were woken at 4am. War had started. It was so confusing. Dad said they were very close. There was fighting outside. When the shooting happened, we had to find cover and hide,” she told the PA news agency.

After two days, the family fled their home in Pershotravensk and Anastasia recalled one moment when they were in fear for their lives as a cafe in which they had sought refuge, in Melnitsa, western Ukraine, was shot at and eventually destroyed.

“I call my dad regularly and speak to him like it could be the last time we speak. I call my grandparents and speak to them like it could be the last time,” she said.

The teenager said she and her family are grateful for the support from those in the UK who welcomed them with ‘open doors’ and ‘open hearts’, in particular Gary and Sandra Silver, who helped the family find a home in Heyford Park, near Bicester.

Oxford Mail: Anastasia Shpot and her mother Natalia. Picture: Dorchester Regeneration/PA
Oxford Mail: Anastasia Shpot and her mother Natalia. Picture: Dorchester Regeneration/PA

Anastasia Shpot and her mother Natalia. Picture: Dorchester Regeneration/PA

The husband and wife have helped approximately 250 Ukrainian refugees secure accommodation across Europe and the US through their property business, Dorchester Regeneration.

“They gave us a home and welcomed us with open doors and for me, it was wonderful because people really helped us – they opened their hearts,” Anastasia said.

Anastasia and her sisters have all been enrolled at Heyford Park School, and the budding pianist hopes to continue working on her craft.

“In September, I will go into sixth form. I’m nervous, but excited,” she said.

“I enjoy playing the piano because I played piano in Ukraine, and my school in Heyford Park is great because they gave us our own piano, so I have the opportunity to play the piano as much as I want to.”

Oxford Mail: Anastasia Shpot and her mother Natalia. Picture: Dorchester Regeneration/PA
Oxford Mail: Anastasia Shpot and her mother Natalia. Picture: Dorchester Regeneration/PA

Anastasia Shpot and her mother Natalia. Picture: Dorchester Regeneration/PA

Mr Silver said: “My wife and I quite literally stumbled across Anastasia in Warsaw train station. She was sleeping rough on the floor with her family.

“We’re delighted that the family are settling in well in Heyford Park and that everyone in the community has been so welcoming, but we’re also aware that they’ve left so much behind, including Anastasia’s dad and grandparents.

“If and when the time comes for the family to return to Ukraine, we will do whatever we can to help facilitate and support them.”

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