Ukrainian refugee in Shropshire hoping for a peaceful future after a year of war
"I want all Ukrainians to live under a peaceful sky, and all those who were separated to finally unite."
Those are the words of one Ukrainian refugee now living in Shropshire, summarising her hopes for 2023 after a year of conflict in her home country.
Hanna Zarytska, who fled Ukraine one year ago, has spoken of her dreams for the future as the world marks the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In the early hours of February 24, 2022, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in what he called a "special military operation" to his nation.
What followed was a series of missile strikes and explosions near major cities – and on Ukrainian infrastructure – with many residents abandoning their homes and some seeking shelter in stations.
President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed his people, referring to the "sound of the new iron curtain that’s falling and closing Russia from the civilised world", while the United States, the UK, the EU and others introduced sanctions.
Now, one year on, the United Nations confirmed that civilian casualties had passed 21,000, with at least 8,006 dead and 13,287 injured in this "senseless war" which is a "blatant affront" to international law.
Across Shropshire, an emotional vigil was held in remembrance of loved ones killed and refugees who have moved to the county have shared their harrowing memories of that first fateful day.
Hanna moved to the county with her 13-year-old son Roman in August of last year and was taken in by her host Julia Farrant from Market Drayton.
At the time, Hanna was working as a broadcaster on the radio, when she was responsible for declaring the horrifying news to her compatriots.
The 38-year-old described that first day: "Of course, the first day of the war is etched in the memory of a Ukrainian for the rest of his or her life. I usually turned off the internet at night.
"Waking up at 6.30am, I got up early, because at that time I was working as a news anchor on the radio. I turned on the Wi-Fi and read a message from my son's teacher that the children are not going to school today because the war has started.
"To say that it was a shock is an understatement, despite the fact that we were morally prepared for this because the news constantly sounded about the expansion of Russian military borders, et cetera.
"But work was waiting. The most difficult thing was to go on the air and tell people these terrible words 'the war has begun.' And then the whole country began to live a different life.
"All the people volunteered for whole days, the men who did not go to the front in the first days unloaded the cars with the humanitarian groups and performed other physically difficult jobs.
"The women wove camouflage nets, prepared food, sorted things. You want to help everyone."
One year on and Hanna and her son still live in Market Drayton with Julia; Hanna recently became a presenter on local radio station Pure Gold.
She added: "A year has passed and many people continue to help the Ukrainian army. The feeling that Ukraine will win has not disappeared.
"And although today the necessary physical aid is much less than in the first days of the war, Ukrainians contribute every day to help Ukrainian soldiers with the purchase of transport and other things.
"For my family and friends who have remained in Ukraine, they, just like a year ago, want the Russian soldiers to leave our lands and do everything possible for this.
"Journalists, like other Ukrainians, work on their front. In the media, one goal is to bring Ukraine's victory closer with every frame and word.
"Journalists talk about ways to protect, provide humanitarian aid, and how Ukrainians organize themselves to help their own army.
"Also, the work of a journalist is very important because it is these people who strengthen people's resilience and faith in victory.
"In the constant struggle for life, of course, there is a place for dreams, so I dream that as soon as possible Ukrainians will hear the long-awaited words 'we have won' and peace will come.
"We are a nation that has already proven its indomitable power, so now I want all Ukrainians to live under a peaceful sky, and all those who were separated by the war to finally unite."