Tetiana Balanova

I heard lots from my grandparents about the war but had never thought that this could ever happen to us again.

In 2014 when I was 20 years old, I learned what the word war really means. Russia invaded the east of Ukraine. We learned to live and build our lives in that reality. In 2022 I worked as a teacher, we were going to celebrate our second wedding anniversary, built plans, thought about buying a house and had a peaceful life. On 24th February 2022 Russia illegally invaded Ukraine in an escalation of the war which began in 2014. The whole the country woke up from the air alert, frightened and lost. We started to live in a new reality, a reality of war, a reality in which you can’t make any plans, a reality when this day can be your last day. I am one of the thousands of Ukrainians who left home, left, and lost our loved ones because of the illegal Russian invasion.

I arrived in Edinburgh in April last year. And after my plane landed, I knew that I am not going to keep calm, I am not going to rely on somebody, I knew that I need to do everything needed to help my county and my family who stayed in Ukraine. Sometimes you can feel helpless being away from your family and friends during such a tough time. Especially when you receive one of the most terrifying messages. I received one. It was about my cousin who was killed by a Russian anti-tank mine. And for me, it was a tipping point, I decided to be strong enough to help and support my family in Ukraine and displaced Ukrainians here in Edinburgh.

I came to the community centre and volunteered to sort donations, when the AUGB got to the warehouse, I arranged for the shuttle bus to take other Ukrainians from the hotel every Tuesday and Thursday to the warehouse. I also helped at the community centre on other occasions. In August last year, I joined the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain Edinburgh branch. We have created a common space and friendly environment for our displaced people. They can get information and guidance, translate documents, and get humanitarian aid, we are supporting people’s well-being, needs and integration into society.

Weekly programmes have been devised for our guests and it consists of social, cultural, and recreational activities for adults, youth, and children. Culture became a centrepiece of this war. That is why we started the mini-Ukrainian school, opened a little library, and have two choirs and a dance ensemble.
I and all my colleagues are trying to protect, promote and share Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian heritage.

We know what real friendship means. And we are so grateful to Scotland and its people!

I was honoured to address the Scottish Parliament about the importance of protecting the native languages, the history of the Ukrainian Language and its thousand years of fighting for its identity and right to speak Ukrainian.
The community centre became a cultural and spiritual home for displaced Ukrainians, it’s a special Ukrainian spot-on Edinburgh’s map. Lots of us, those who experienced the war, found friends here, met host families, who became our families here. We know what real friendship means. And we are so grateful to Scotland and its people!

Our best people, my friends, classmates, and neighbours are paying with their lives for our right to exist. With the group of Ukrainians, we are collecting, buying, and sending the humanitarian aid and other assistance that our friends, soldiers may need. We are fighting and will continue to fight for our motherland, our independence, the right to speak our native language and be called Ukrainians.

Upcoming Events

Job Board Banner

Related Posts