Two teenagers who fled the war-torn city of kyiv in Ukraine to stay with their British family started their first day of school in the UK today.
Daniil Dushaiev, 15, and Kate Kozyrieva, 13, were very excited to start St Thomas More RC School, Blaydon, Gateshead, after arriving in the UK earlier this month.
The teenagers are staying with Danil’s sister Slava Shumihin and her husband Oleg at their home in Rowlands Gill after Slava, 36, flew to Poland to bring her brother and cousin Kate to the UK.
Read more: Ukrainian teenagers move into new temporary home in Rowlands Gill
The couple – who have been taking online lessons set up by their Ukrainian schools since fleeing in March – say they are excited to go to school, although it will be a very different experience to their home schools. Wearing a uniform, traveling on a double-decker bus and playing cricket were highlights of Danil’s day, as well as getting to grips with the school’s language and house system. “It’s like being in Harry Potter,” he said.
“It was different than every lesson people around you change and I could choose the lessons I liked as I was in KS4. I chose art, drama and business. In Ukraine, we didn’t have a school uniform and had seven lessons of 45 minutes each. I think the uniform looks fancy and I feel like I’m in a movie. That’s cool! But the most big difference is that everyone spoke English! I didn’t understand all the lessons, but the teachers helped us with a translation and I tried to make the lessons as understandable as possible for us.”
Kate can’t wait to go back tomorrow and can’t wait to start learning French for the first time. “I enjoyed my day so much,” she said. “Everything was so friendly. One girl even took a picture of me! I loved my uniform. We don’t have uniforms in Ukraine, but I think it would be nice to have such nice team clothes. school. I had the chance to play guitar at lunchtime, which I loved.”
Joanne Cevantes, house manager at St Thomas More, said the school felt it was a privilege to support Danil and Kate during their stay in the UK.
“It’s really the philosophy of the school that Danil and Kate feel welcome and can learn, grow and grow,” she said. “They are both wonderful young people and have settled into school life very well so far. They have been paired up with others and they have loved the facilities we have here.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for the school and we will support the family as much as possible.”
Slava has lived in Rowlands Gill for two years with her 40-year-old husband Oleg. She told ChronicleLive how she traveled from the UK to pick up her younger brother and ended up with her younger cousin on top of that. And after a 22-day wait, while the children’s UK visas were sorted out, the three finally boarded a flight to Newcastle Airport on March 31.
Slava and Daniil’s mother, Anhela, who is staying in Ukraine as a volunteer with the Territorial Defense Force in Kyiv, the capital, put Daniil on an evacuation train to Lviv, where he was met by Slava. Kate was originally supposed to stay with her parents and older brother in their village outside Kyiv, but her parents grew increasingly concerned for their daughter’s safety and made the quick decision to evacuate her afterward. the bombardment of the village next to theirs. She left with her mother’s shoes, which are two sizes too big.
Slava and Oleg have previously spoken of the support they have received from their local community in Rowlands Gill and the wider North East region.
And although the couple have their hands full now, they are still trying to help friends and relatives in Ukraine by finding homes for those who want to leave, although Slava says most people want to stay in Ukraine. “I put out a message asking residents to consider opening their homes to Ukrainians, and I was overwhelmed with local support,” she said. “I’ve had nearly 20 offers from people in Rowlands Gill and over 15 from further afield, so huge, huge support from people in the North East.