BLOG: “Liverpool came back stronger than ever after the war – we can do the same”
When Ukraine came under attack on 24 February 2022, Veronika Yasynska could never have predicted that 12 months on she’d be in Liverpool helping to promote her home nation on a global scale. The Events Project Assistant looks back at how she came to be in the city and what she hopes her country will gain from the Eurovision Song Contest.
I was woken up by three powerful blasts, one right after the other. I knew that it was really close because of the sound and vibration. The war had started. I was frozen from shock for a few hours because we didn’t know what to do.
The things I saw and heard were like something from a World War II movie – screams, pregnant women on the platforms, luggage torn apart while people grabbed essential items.
I did not want to leave my home, but I lived near a military base, so it was a target zone. One of the first civilian buildings to be targeted by a missile strike was close to my house. That moment is a level of fear I will never forget. We had no choice but to leave, it wasn’t safe.
We could take only one rucksack per person, so I grabbed my computer, a camera, two T-shirts, a pair of jeans, toiletries and some documents. We didn’t know where we were going, we just thought we needed to go somewhere.
We travelled in darkness for safety. People were completely silent. It was very scary because we were passing through danger zones. Even the animals seemed to understand. They lay on the floor without making a sound, even when someone stepped on them. I ended up in Poland with only my mum. A friend who had moved from Ukraine to the UK nearly three years ago encouraged me to seek refuge in Liverpool.
It was really hard to make that decision of relocating again. I had travelled through Ukraine and Romania, where I spent a few days volunteering, then Hungary and Slovakia, before reaching Poland. I was so exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically. It was hard to move again with only one rucksack, I didn’t know what to expect, but the city where I was living in Poland was only small, making it hard to find work.
From the moment I arrived in Liverpool, I knew I wanted to support my country as much as possible. I worked as a PR and Brand Manager on cultural and educational projects in Ukraine, so I put my experience to good use. I worked with Liverpool City Council’s Central Library to arrange for Ukrainian books to be stocked there and I organised an Independence Day of Ukraine cultural event at the Museum of Liverpool. I’m so grateful that the Council and National Museums Liverpool were brave enough to start a conversation with me and start to build trust.
When Liverpool won the title of Eurovision host city on behalf of Ukraine, I thought that it might be an opportunity for me to join the council’s Culture Liverpool team.
In my role at Culture Liverpool, I am working across the cultural commissions, the majority of which are collaborations between UK and Ukrainian artists. I will also be advising partners on Ukrainian culture, and I will be the link between them and the Ukrainian community in the city.
Eurovision is a chance and platform for us (Ukrainians) to tell the world more about our country and to bust any myths. Declare again that we are an independent and sovereign state with our own language, 1000-year history, and importantly that – we are not a part of Russia.
My goal is to show to the different nations the country I love and make them fall in love with it too. I want to encourage others to consider visiting Ukraine one day.
I’m trying to absorb every valuable experience that I have here so I can build links with Ukraine and the rest of Europe so we can work closer together in the future.
This is the first time two countries have ever come together to host Eurovision so it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
It is not a secret that the Eurovision Song contest is a celebration, so it is quite difficult to speak about the war. But I’m glad that Liverpool has given us this space and supports us to bring the victory of Ukraine closer.
The people of Liverpool have created an environment that makes me feel accepted and heard. Liverpool understands me and gives me hope. I’ve seen its history through the May blitz. The bomb damage that Liverpool suffered – it’s the same thing that’s happening in Ukraine now. For me it is a great example of Scousers’ resilience, they have that in common with the people of Ukraine. Liverpool came back stronger than ever after the war – we can do the same.
I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to spend almost a year here and learn about Scouse culture. The people of Liverpool are so kind, so generous and so welcoming. Everyone will be amazed by the welcome.
I can’t imagine a better place to hold Eurovision than Liverpool.