RUSSIAN bombs dropping on her city caused Nataliia Lisnykh to waken from her sleep in alarm.

She and her two girls lived in the city of Zhytormyr and were driven out by the Russian invasion — eventually they found sanctuary in Walkhampton.

That was a year ago and it is still raw in her mind, so it did not take much for her to become emotional when she stood with compatriot refugees at a vigil to mark the first anniversary of the invasion.

Nataliia found it hard to control her emotions as she hugged daughter Dasha, five, while she was listening to Tania Kovalchuk speaking to a crowd of residents and Ukrainians about the suffering back home: ‘It brings it back to me when Tania speaks about the war and how it all started. I find it hard not to cry. I get upset when I think about all the people we have left behind the people who have died or are injured. It is just like yesterday when I remember the bombs falling on my city. We could not understand what was happening. The ground was shaking and there was huge crashes. It looked like explosions, but we could not believe it. Then we looked at social media and it was real — we were being attacked. They were dropping bombs and missiles on ordinary people. The soldiers came from Belarus as well.

‘My girls Dasha and Masha, were also upset. But we are safe now and they are safe, which is most important to me. It’s a comforting feeling to see all the other Ukrainians here together to remember those protecting our country and those who have died and also lost their homes. I cannot thank the people of the UK enough for giving us their homes.’

Fellow Ukrainian Vladimir Ivanov waved a giant Ukrainian flag at the vigil and explained he was part Russian: ‘That is a difficult position for me as I have to consider the two sides of the invasion and think about who are my friends and family now after the invasion.’