When 13-year-old Arsienii is asked what his favourite thing about his mum, Jane, is. She’s surprised by his answer.

“I think you’re very clever,” he says. Their bond is strong.

Having been through so much over the last 8 months, it’s Jane’s two children that keep her going.

As a single mum, it was a heartbreaking decision for Jane to leave everything she knew behind in Ukraine – including her parents and their pet cat and dog. But when the war broke out, their lives changed completely.

“We couldn’t go to work, school or the shops. We couldn’t get fresh bread. Our life became dangerous and scary,” says Jane. “I don’t wish this on anyone.”

Jane single-handedly drove her Arsienii and her daughter, 8-year-old Sofiia, from the east to the west of Ukraine. With millions like them fleeing the country, it took five days with the amount of traffic. They eventually reached Lithuania, where they stayed in a friend's kitchen before applying to the UK's Visa Sponsorship Scheme.

Through Farnham Homes For Ukraine, Jane’s family were paired with a family based in Surrey, who offered to host them. Five months since they first arrived, they are still living with their host family.

The experience has completely changed the way Jane thinks about the refugee experience. “Don’t think you know their situation,” Jane advises. “You have no idea of the life they live.”

Watch as Jane and Arseinii interview each other about their journey from Ukraine to the UK, what they’ve learnt from their experience and their hopes for the future.

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Video Transcript

JANE: Oh, that's the best question. What is your favourite thing about me?

Arsienii: Your brain. Yeah really. You are very clever.

Is there anything you want people to know about refugees

JANE: uh, yes. At first, don't be like me and don't be a judge. Don't think that you know their situation. You have no idea how they feel or which life they live.

Arsienii: How did our life change when the war started?

JANE: It changed completely. We stopped being able to go to work, to go to school, we stopped being able to go to the shop to get fresh bread actually. Our life started to be dangerous and scary. I don't wish this change on anyone.

Arsienii: Me too.

What keeps you going when things get hard?

JANE: Of course. It's you and Sofiia. After I was divorced, I felt all the responsibility for my children on my shoulders. And so I try to look after you and your sister as best I can.

I feel a really big responsibility to get you both everything that you need.

Arsienii: Hard question.

JANE: Hard question. Yeah. I’m happy to be your mummy. Yes. Yeah. okay.

What was leaving home like for you?

Arsienii: Hard, because my friends stayed, my grandparents, and pets, my cat and my dog. But I tried to think that it’s just a trip to London.

JANE: A long trip.

Arsienii: Yes.

Mum, what do you think my best quality is?

JANE: In this situation? The best quality is that you can feel calm even when inside you feel worried.

And also, I want to add your sense of humour.

Outside you look like, “oh, take it easy. Everything we can do, everything we can deal with.

I know that you have been worrying inside, but you’re like, “calm down. We can deal with all of this.”

Arsienii: Chill and all.

JANE: Chill and all. Yeah. 

What do you want to be when you're grown up?

Arsienii: For me it’s more interesting, not [to talk] about a job, but about what person I want to be.

For me, money, it's not such a big need in my life. I want to say that I want to be good for myself and good for others.

I want to be useful, you know?

What are your hopes for the future?

JANE: That war will stop in our country. And I still dream about coming back home and having our normal  life.

Arsienii: What have you learned from this conversation?

JANE: I’m really happy to know that you think that I am really clever.

Arsienii: For me, it's true.

JANE: Okay. So it was a pleasure for me to interview you.

Arsienii: Yes, for me, also.