Ukraine war: Portsmouth woman's heartbreak as her family remains trapped in bombed Ukrainian city

‘I could never imagine that a month ago I would be asking if my parents were alive in the morning,’ – those are the words of Maryna Kuzmenko, whose family members have faced air strike sirens every waking day of their life, for weeks now.

By Hollie Busby
Saturday, 2nd April 2022, 1:38 pm

Maryna spoke of her heartbreaking situation during Portsmouth’s Ukrainian relief conference at Guildhall on Thursday evening.

Her parents and 85-year-old grandmother are trapped in the east of the country, which is blighted by the war’s fiercest fighting and bombardments, and are unable to flee.

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Maryna Kuzmenko with Raise Mazanik her granddaughter Olga Kravchenko.

Maryna, who has lived Portsmouth for almost two years and is a co-ordinator for the Hampshire Ukrainian Community Facebook group, said: ‘It’s a nightmare for me. Every day they have an air attack siren which is around the city so they have to go to their storage for vegetables.

‘They have to shelter underground because they have air attacks and there is no point training for an air attack. It can always come.

‘That’s why it’s up to you. You can walk in front of your house but if you flee you could lose your life.’

After two days ‘crying’ over what was happening in her homeland, Maryna decided on February 26 that she would do something to help.

Through the Facebook group, community aid has been rallied round with vans of donations being sent out to the Embassy of Ukraine in London from Portsmouth.

Currently, ex-military gear, specifically gear suitable for warmer weather is of ‘critical importance’ according to Maryna.

She said: ‘There is critical importance to bring ex-military stuff as well so we have huge requests for it everywhere. I was asking to please donate to us old helmets and old armour.

‘Even now we've got more specific requirements. Before it was cold so we were asking about uniforms and underwear and all the stuff which is helpful for winter conditions.

‘Now we've already got requests for summer uniforms as well which is more suitable for fighting during the warm conditions.’

Maryna is involved with support projects for Ukraine at the Embassy in London and there is a central hub in Lviv, in western Ukraine, where supplies are being transported to and being spread throughout the country.

From Portsmouth she is doing her upmost to support who she can with organisations across the city while she remains in fear of her family in crisis.

‘[My grandma] said to me that she was very scared at that moment and she's very sad. I hear her voice and she's sad about this existing situation now.

‘I can't go to them during the summer, I can't hug her. We cannot say when we will next meet,’ she said.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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