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Ukrainian Hanna and Svitlana say they are unable to afford to live independently in the UK

On the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a mother and daughter living with sponsors near Hull, explain why they are preparing to risk their lives and return to their homeland. They say they are unable to afford to live independently in the UK, despite being in one of the least expensive areas of the country. For Svitlana Nakonechna and her daughter Hanna, the pull of home is strong. Due to high living costs in Britain, they also feel a push; with both believing a home of their own in the UK is beyond their reach. Hanna and Svitlana sitting with coffee in Lena's Ukrainian Kitchen in Hull city centre.Hanna, left, and Svitlana say they are unable to afford to live independently in the UK

"It's very expensive here," says Svitlana, 41, explaining their decision to return to Ukraine in the summer. "We had a target not to live on benefits, to find jobs. We did find jobs.

"But to live in this country, on our own, is not possible or realistic. We don't earn enough money to get our own place.
"We do not want to overstay our welcome [with the sponsors]."

Since arriving here on 18 March 2022, Svitlana and Hanna, 19, have been living with a couple they call their "second family" under the government's Homes for Ukraine scheme, in a village near Hull in East Yorkshire.Though at pains to stress they will forever be grateful to their "amazing" hosts and the UK, Svitlana and Hanna say they need independence after being forced to rely on the generosity of others for nearly two years.Svitlana, a hair stylist before the war, and Hanna work in a pub, both pot-washing.Hanna combines her work with studying at East Riding College.Lena Sutherland, left, comforts Hanna Nakonechna as mum Svitlana looks onLena Sutherland, left, comforts Hanna Nakonechna as mother Svitlana looks on I met them in Lena's Ukrainian Kitchen, a cafe in Hull city centre, where many who fled the war come for a taste of home.As well as the UK cost of living crisis, mother and daughter say they are missing family who remain in Ukraine.Over coffee and a plate of mlyntsi - a type of pancake made with stewed apples - Svitlana and Hanna tell me they are aware of the risks associated with returning to Ukraine.Neither will forget the panic and destruction that arrived with the opening salvos of the conflict, as many expected Kyiv to be overrun.

'Difficult decision'

"I realise it's dangerous," says Svitlana, speaking through an interpreter. "I cannot deny I am scared. At the present moment, my decision is final."Svitlana recalls her life before the war."My life in Ukraine was good," she says. "Myself and my husband had been building our own house. My husband had a business. We were very happy."Rubbing her wedding ring, Svitlana tells me her husband died four months before the invasion.Hanna, who dreams of one day becoming an actress, says she and her mother felt "fear and disbelief" when the Russians began their onslaught.When their neighbour's house was bombed, Svitlana made the "difficult decision" to leave.Neither woman wanted to move abroad. The situation dictated it, say the pair.Over the past two years, the women have made brief trips back to Ukraine to see Svitlana's parents and sisters.Soon, they will buy one-way tickets."Kyiv is still very beautiful," says Hanna who, like her mother, hankers for their homeland.However, the smiles vanish as she tells of changes they have noticed in the people each time they return."The main changes are in the people," says Hanna, now looking down at her coffee. "People are more angry."She adds: "They are anxious. They are scared."Liliya Holmes, a Ukrainian national whose husband John hails from Hull, is aware of others who have also left, at least partly, for financial reasons.But she adds: "The extension to the visas recently announced by the government may make people change their minds about returning to Ukraine for now."

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