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Story of Emily


I am from Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine. My mother is Ukrainian, and my dad is Nigerian. They were both English teachers. I have two little brothers. Life was not pleasant in Donetsk. I was the only different kid at school, and the other children did not want to sit with me. Even the teachers had a bad attitude toward me. When I was 16, we visited London for a holiday, and I loved the city. No one looked at me differently. However, in 2014, when it was time to head back home, we saw the news that our airport had been bombed and that there was a war in my country. So we could not return home.

Armed conflict broke out between the separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Ukrainian government in April 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. The war is still going on.

We applied for asylum in Croydon and were sent to Cardiff, then Newport, where the Home Office gave us a house and £36 each per week. I went to university (free for asylum seekers) to study English and later travel and tourism. However, our asylum claim was denied in 2015, so my parents nor I could work. When I finished university, I got a fantastic opportunity to be a volunteer host for the UEFA Champions League Football Final in Cardiff. I was so excited. It was a massive event in Cardiff; it took six months of attending training to prepare for it. Then the day before the game, I had to show my papers to get accreditation. However, I could not get it because I was an asylum seeker, even though it was volunteering. It broke me down. I did not leave the house for three weeks and spent all day in bed.

I somehow found the will to continue and applied to universities again. I got offers from excellent universities and applied for funding, but as an asylum seeker, I could not access government funding. We are grateful to be here. There are more opportunities here for us than in Ukraine. We are not hungry and not on the street, while the people of Donetsk are sleeping in tents and have no food.

I dream of promoting destinations people might not think about and helping them discover new cultures.

Written by Rethinking Refugees

Story of Emily
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