First Christmas as Ukrainian refugees in the U.K.


The Christmas story coming out in the English language has been told more than once. It’s not the setting, but the Ukrainian focus of Robyn Eveson’s narrative that makes it so interesting.

During this journey from Spain to Canada, she and her family form many struggles but also unrealistic expectations for their first Christmas. The family was forced to keep telling themselves that everything will be okay because they didn’t have anyone to let them down by giving honest feedback or giving up on their dreams.

The first Christmas as Ukrainian refugees is a variation of the poem, “What Befell A Bethlem.” This goes about the frightening time of discovering that your country has been gripped in total calamity. The narrator wonders if the host nations have already forgotten about them arriving with suitcases that contained nothing but hope. Friends and family had abandoned them, and they were met with sneers and indifference.

Then on Christmas Eve, they are welcomed back into their lost homeland, threatened by beautiful lights, singing crowds, and embracing fireplaces. They won’t even recognize this broken land from their memories of it before the war began. However, everything is still not good enough for this narrator who insists that all must be restored because otherwise “There would have been no Christmas.”

Due to the political events happening in Ukraine since Euromaidan, this Christmas as Ukrainian refugees takes on important sentimental connotations as a modern-day story.

Today it’s celebrated peacefully, but in the seventeenth century, it was the holiday marking the beginning of a terrible period in Ukraine’s history.

The battle for Eastern Europe raged on, and Ukrainian resentments boiled, erupting into fear and fury at what seemed to be a time that would never end. And this first Christmas alone–as worries about whether anyone would survive–gave them new hope.

This was quite the first Christmas for Ukrainian refugees displaced by the war.

My family received new life in a refugee camp in Austria. We fled the war in my country, Ukraine, and have now been here for 4 years, becoming part of this community of Muslims who also fled and were welcomed warmly by Bosnian Christians who took us in at first sight. They discovered that UNHCR already made preparations on what to prepare for traditional Christmas with a live turkey, pork sausage, and fruits like cranberry jam. The sweet smell of warm spices was burst—ahh!

The way I celebrate Christmas with my loved ones is by welcoming friends to our housewarming party, “Christmas Marti,” and learning to cook traditional dishes with French ingredients given to me and other coordinators from Bosnia 2 years ago when we first moved there. I made duck soup and celery salad “Kapsalon” with French ingredients given by UNHCR.

It was the first Christmas for Ukrainian refugees who were displaced by war in their homeland. The phenomenon of taking refugees as families is still considered to be not widespread in Western countries such as Sweden and Germany.

We went ahead with our plan to purchase a Christmas tree after summer started, but when we arrived with our tree on the morning of Saturday 25th December, it seemed to have vanished.”

The only decorations that decorated the room were a small rug and some fairy lights that my mom strung around. Those had been there before, but a celebration in search of joy and beauty.”

Watching the TV being broadcasted from Ukraine and hearing gunfire, the parents of six-year-olds Savinka and Philipp Ban gradually became refugees.

The first Christmas in my new life as Ukrainian Refugee was pretty sad because our room smells like stale smoke, most of my clothes were donated a year ago, and we cannot buy presents because there is no electricity on the main street.

Bread Day is traditionally celebrated in Ukraine, but the first Christmas for members of the Ukrainian nation was a difficult one, with a constantly-shifting country as their backdrop.

Do you celebrate Christmas or other winter holidays in your respective countries from experience?

Home Office statistics show 5,861 Ukrainians moved to the region under the Homes for Ukraine program in 2022.

Among those to arrive were Roza and Ivan from Nikopol, who said: “Christmas is beautiful in the UK.”

They said all Ukrainians would be making the same wish for 2023 – peace for Ukraine.

The couple is staying with their daughter, Iryna, who had previously settled in Coventry.

They said “everything happened so quickly” after the Russian invasion. There were a lot of bombs dropped on the town around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power station, where the couple lived.

Roza said they decided to leave on 1 March, and it took them 20 minutes to pack their bags with the bare essentials and find their documents before boarding the last train out of town.

In the end, they traveled three days to the Polish border, where Iryna and her husband collected them.

Ivan said it had been “a very stressful time” and they had been forced to wait in France for 10 days before arriving in the UK.

The couple said they planned to celebrate Christmas with family in Coventry “in a traditional English way.

As Orthodox Christians, they normally celebrate on 7 January with dishes including a pudding called Kutia that contains honey, fruit, nuts, and poppy seeds.

But this year Ivan said they would be eating Turkey with stuffing and pigs in blankets, adding: “We are going to try Christmas pudding as well.

He also said they would attend a Christmas mass “in a beautiful English church in Monks Kerby village.

Roza said: “We are so lucky that we are going to celebrate this Christmas in a safe and warm house with our children.”

But she said many Ukrainians would “spend this Christmas without electricity, without heating, and in some places, without water; some of them “defending our country from Russian aggressors”.

She said Ukrainians all over the world would pray for peace this Christmas.

Chris and Lindsey Venables, from Astley in Worcestershire, have two Ukrainian women and two children staying with them.

They will have been sharing the house for exactly eight months on Christmas Day, and Mr. Venables said the visitors had “become members of the family very quickly”.

One of the women, Svitlana, said: “When we came here our life changed because it’s a new tradition for us and another language.”

Larysa said different traditions were true of Christmas too, explaining: “We have different dishes, usually it’s 12 different dishes, and we have a special song.”

In traditional Orthodox culture, the song kolyadka is sung every time someone enters a house as a wish for good health, prosperity, and well-being.

Larysa said she would regularly prepare a “special dinner” of carp for the big day.

Both women have found jobs, and the children go to school, they say those who have welcomed them to the UK are “very nice people.

Activists in Ukraine reported an exodus of 5 million citizens within one year. According to the Guardian, Kyiv had 1.9 million more residents than in the previous year, which means shifts in major cities can test urban planning limits. Countries with high demand for real estate that peaked around December are scrambling for apartments for their displaced due to these mass population movements.

The headline of this news story outlines a story about a mass population movement in Ukraine that has been caused by political unrest. Throughout history, right-wing forces have perpetrated corruption and massacres against civilians, which has horrified the people and revealed the power of manipulation associated with public discourse.

Global migration trends, population movements because of war, or lack of sustainable economic prospects force us to question our place in a rapidly changing world and food insecurity or displacement becomes not only an issue but also part of human rights itself. 

The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has stipulated that:“…the right to food is a human right. States must ensure access by their populations to adequate food through national and international cooperation.” People must become aware of their rights and abilities as citizens to help alleviate food insecurity.

After moving into the building that she recently rented, Rahel returned to Kyiv and shared the Christmas spirit with their new neighbors.

The story of Rahel and her family illustrates how Christmas was celebrated through migration, resettlement, and new language learning.

It’s Christmas time. The holiday season is going to be busy and trying for people who are new refugees. But the task of making a party wouldn’t be that hard – right?

Tonight, my host family and friends make sure I get through my first Christmas as an immigrant without a job or money to gift others. That night I start with an eggnog cocktail and yolk-covered turkey legs but never let any food touch my lips until I am well past full.06/27I finally sleep through the night without having nightmares about being deported.

About the author

Marta Lopez

I am a content writer and I write articles on sports, news, business etc.

By Marta Lopez


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