My country is suffering and we must not forget the lives that Putin’s war is destroying.

I am British, but I am also Ukrainian.

I was born in Khakhovka in southern Ukraine, but now, like 18,000 other people in my country, I call the UK home.


Olya was born in Ukraine, and her family, including her mother Olga, is still there.
Real Estate In Kiev Was Bombed Overnight


Real estate in Kiev was bombed overnight1 credit

But while we are here at home, we are also in hell.

In the 48 hours before I write this, I’ve been awake for 40 of them, glued to social media, getting messages and calls from friends and family.

The horror unfolds in real time. I send a voice message to my brother and nephew who are both in Kiev and hope to get a voice message back.

The wait for this text is painful. The answer – when it comes – more pain.

The war has come.

I tried to be calm and steadfast towards my family, but today I feel overwhelmed.

How can this be real life?

Read our live blog for the latest news on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

I try to stay active, giving interviews, posting messages of support online, protesting outside of Downing Street.

However, every time I open my mouth to tell people here in the UK about my family in Ukraine, I have an out-of-body experience.

It was only last September that my British husband, my two children and I flew to Kiev, a trip I have taken many times since I moved to the UK at 18.

We board a rickety sleeper train and drive for 12 hours across rolling yellow fields — not unlike Yorkshire in June — to the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine.

Then, as always, I was met by the excited face of my father, and we drove for an hour to my house in Kakhovka, past the dam and the hydroelectric power station and the picturesque water with its green islands, where the boys sell crayfish next to the road.

Mom and dad refuse to budge

Yesterday I woke up to the news that Kiev had been bombed again and that Putin’s army had arrived in my hometown and planted a Russian flag on the hydroelectric power station before the tanks even broke through to the front line in Kherson.

Now pause for a second. Replace Kiev with London. Kherson with Birmingham or Manchester and Kakhovka with Billericay or Worksop or wherever you have friends and family. Now imagine that this is happening there.

My parents are still in Kakhovka. They have UK visas and could easily be here with me and their beloved grandchildren – they were here for three weeks just last month.

But they said that they needed to be at home, and they are staying at home despite the impending, and now real, disaster. My dad said he wouldn’t budge. My mom used to joke that she would defend herself with a cast iron skillet if needed.

Unless their house really gets bombed, they won’t run away. Why should they!? This is their land, their home.

Last night, my mother said the most heartbreaking, selfless “mom word”. “We are happy because we are at home, we are alive and we can still talk to you. But you have two children and they need you, don’t worry about us.”

Can you imagine your mom saying this to you when war and terror hit their hometown?

Mom And Dad Olya, Peter And Olga Grebenyuk, Pictured With Husband Joe Woodhouse.


Mom and dad Olya, Peter and Olga Grebenyuk, pictured with husband Joe Woodhouse.
Olya At A Family Celebration In Ukraine


Olya at a family celebration in Ukraine

“We are in a terrifying global event”

Forgive me for asking you to think so. But it is important that all of us here, in the safety of Britain, understand. Perhaps this will help everyone to do something.

Because while this may seem like a distant war that you cannot control, it is right on our doorstep.

Look at the map. How big and how close is Ukraine? This is in Europe. It’s on the other side of Poland. And that’s more than France. And now it’s full of tanks and ballistic missiles. Just.

We’ve all just gone through one of the most extraordinary times in modern history with Covid and all the fears and anxieties it brought with it – things we’re still going through. Our life has changed. And we are tired.

Now we are in another terrifying global event.

But we must all find the strength to fight in every possible way.
There are things you can do. Come with us to the protests. Donate to causes that will help. Lobby your MP to make sure there is pressure for real sanctions that will bite. Make sure your voice is heard.

This is just the beginning. And it will get much worse before it gets better.

But we must all remember what is at stake here. We must not think of this war in abstract terms, in terms of territories, weapons, or headlines.

The tanks of the terrorist dictator roll casually through towns, villages and towns, while his bombers rush over people’s heads.

People like me. And people like you.

*Olia Hercules is a chef and food writer.

How can you help the people of Ukraine

The British Red Cross has announced an emergency fundraiser for Ukraine.

Relief workers help with clean water, medical care and support.
And the charity said they were already responding to severe water shortages after intense fighting caused waterworks and pipelines to fail.

Donate 0300 023 0820

Putin Declared War On The Former Soviet State On Thursday


Putin declared war on the former Soviet state on ThursdayCredit: Reuters
Ukrainian Families Head To Borders As Bombs Rain Down On Kiev


Ukrainian families head to borders as bombs rain down on Kiev1 credit
A Man Cries As He Prepares To Board An Evacuation Train In The Dondass Area.


A man cries as he prepares to board an evacuation train in the Dondass area.1 credit
Olya Fears For The Safety Of Her Family


Olya fears for the safety of her familyCredit: oliahercules/instagram

Leave a Comment