WHEN refugee Kamiliia Dublenych saw Colchester, it felt magical.

She described it as being like something out of Harry Potter’s world and indeed it was a world away from the devastation she had left in Ukraine.

Kamiliia, who is 17, and her mother, Yuliia, 40, have been given safe refuge in Lexden with hosts Richard, 57, and Shelley Spencer, 56.

They are here through the Governments Homes for Ukraine scheme and are so grateful.


They have told their story of leaving their family and their beloved dog in war torn Ukraine and journey to find sanctuary in Colchester.

Mrs Dublenych said: “Rockets and bombs were not far from our house, there was a very strong sound and all our family woke up and didn’t understand what was happening.

“I stood near the window. Our house was shaking and the windows also.

“I was in my nightdress looking at the window and couldn’t understand and my husband said take your clothes quickly, the war has started.”

They rushed and put only their documents, some money and medicine into a bag.

She said: “We were ready to go. We didn’t know what to do we thought maybe go into the cellar in our house but we didn’t know what do to.

“We live in the mountains, but it was very loud.”

In the early hours on February 24 the family was awoken at home in Skhidnysia in Lviv Oblast, western Ukraine at the start of the Russian invasion.

The family owns a guest house in the mountains but Mrs Dublenych said the sounds were still loud despite being in such a quiet area.

They applied for visas to have an option to get to safety as the war accelerated.


Kamiliia said: “It’s hard to leave our family, friends and our big German Shepherd at home.

“When the enemy is at war it’s dangerous and my father said I must leave my country because I must live and I must have dreams.”

Two days before Kamiliia’s 17th birthday they received her visa which was then given to her as a present.

Mrs Dublenych said: “We were waiting for the visa for one month. We were nervous to receive it and when we did, I couldn’t believe it was true.

“Kamiliia’s visa came first but only a few hours later mine came.

“I had mixed feelings, I was happy but also afraid, it was  hard to leave our house and I was afraid leaving my husband.”

The mum and daughter had met their host family over the phone but said they were nervous to meet them when they landed on May 3.

Mrs Dublenych said: “We met Richard at the airport and hugged each other, like a father, I was not nervous.

“I feel young, I can’t think about anything but all people are thinking about me and taking care of me.

“I think of our people and our country and I want to help them so badly, maybe I am ashamed that I am here and other people are staying in Ukraine.”

Many of their family members are living in their guest house because they said it’s not as dangerous as being in a bigger city.

With the two-hour time difference between here and Ukraine Kamiliia wakes up early to continue with online classes for her exams in the summer.

She said: “My classes start at 7am here, it’s good as I wake up early and go running before I start my lessons.

“In the UK I have no friends, more of my friends are in Ukraine and my best friend in in Paris.

“When we arrive home and my friends are in my home it will be cool because we will have interesting stories and we can travel to every country in the future.”

She hopes to learn more English as she said she loves languages and speaks Ukrainian, Russian and Polish.

She said: “People are  important in our lives and here there are kind and friendly people, it’s wonderful and in this situation it’s a very positive country.”

Yuliia said that after Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kyiv  she was surprised so many other countries then wanted to help.

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Since being here Cycle King have given Kamiliia a free bike and they have been shown a lot of support from people in the area.

In her time in Colchester, Yuliia said that she wants to work and be busy and had ideas to help people by volunteering for charities or food banks.

Mr Spencer said: “Yuliia already researched a food bank in Colchester before she came to the UK and she had told me about it and said ‘Can I start volunteering there’. I thought it was amazing.”

In their time staying with Mr and Mrs Spencer they have been exploring Colchester and Mrs Dublenych has been taking lots of pictures for her family as she couldn’t believe that some places were real.

She said: “I took many photos at Mersea Island and sent them to my husband and he said it is like a postcard, it’s not a real photo.”

Mr Spencer said: “We’re just helping them to get their bearings by going to the leisure world, the library and an Eastern European shop.

“My family have been making fun of me as they say I speak English different as I’m leaving adjectives out of sentences and talking slower to help them understand.”