Sanctuary scholarships provide Ukraine students with extended stay in Leicester

Pictured from left: Oleksandra Korshunova, Kira Myroshnychenko, Yeva Zhylova-Velter and Karyna Rudaia.

Four Ukrainian students who found sanctuary at the University of Leicester have extended their UK stay after receiving scholarships.

Oleksandra Korshunova, Yeva Zhylova-Velter, Kira Myroshnychenko and Karyna Rudaia swapped war-torn Ukraine for the East Midlands in January 2023, after Leicester signed a twinning agreement with Kremenchuk Mykhailo Otrohradskyi National University.

Kremenchuck is situated in central Ukraine, some 160 miles behind the frontline. The city suffered heavy missile and drone bombardments targeting its power generation facilities at the beginning of Russia’s invasion, two years ago.

The universities’ agreement saw the quartet spend a semester of study in Leicester – and since then, all four have returned to England after successfully applying for Sanctuary Scholarships.

Oleksandra Korshunova, who has embarked on a English and Creative Writing degree, said: “Writing had been my passion since childhood, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to study a course aligned with my interests.

“I like how the teachers deliver the material here and pay a lot of attention to teamwork among students. I feel very comfortable studying here, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”

While life in Leicester is good, Ukraine’s plight is always at the forefront of Oleksandra’s mind.

She said: “The war hasn't ended, and many territories of Ukraine continue to suffer from daily attacks by Russia, just like my hometown. Every day, many news sources, as well as my relatives and friends, keep me informed about what's happening in my city and across the country. And I just couldn’t disable the app that notifies me about air raids in my hometown, even after moving here. I know that my loved ones are safe, and that's the most important thing for me. And although I feel comfortable and safe here, my heart still aches for my beloved motherland Ukraine.”

Yeva Zhylova-Velter, who is studying a Master’s in Mass Communication, said: “The situation back home remains dire. My hometown continues to endure relentless shelling by Russian missiles and drones. Despite the passage of time, the circumstances remain largely unchanged, casting a shadow of uncertainty over our lives.”

She added: “Leicester has become an integral part of my life; I love the city, its picturesque parks, and the warmth of its people. As time goes on, my fondness for this place remains unwavering, genuinely growing with each passing day.”

Meanwhile, Karyna Rudaia and Kira Myroshnychenko are both studying English.

Kira said: “During my time here, I have seen many advantages and positive qualities of this country, especially in the field of education. So now I understand what people mean when they say that Britain is a centre of education and science.

“As for me, the University of Leicester is a perfect example of this because it is not only about strong academic programmes, but also about the atmosphere itself. The professors and the university team provide all possible support to the students, offering opportunities for both personal and professional growth, making the experience here productive and enjoyable. That's why I can confidently say that the University of Leicester and Britain have left a deep mark in my life, providing invaluable experience, inspiration, and life lessons.”

Kateryna Puhachova, left, and Liliia Korotina.

Joining the original four from Ukraine are Liliia Korotina, who enrolled on the MSc in Advanced Software Engineering course, in September 2023, and Kateryna Puhachova, who came to Leicester in January 2024 for a semester of studying Politics.

Liliia said: “I love it here. There are so many opportunities. It's not just about education but also the community, societies and a lot of support. After arriving, I sometimes feel sad that my course is only one year long because this place makes me feel alive and fulfilled.”

While Leicester has been a dream come true for her, Liliia’s thoughts are never far from her parents and sister, who live in Kharkiv.

She said: “Compared to the first months of the war, things have somewhat improved. In the first months, my parents couldn't get food, transport was down, and missiles were dangerously close.

“Now, the city has somewhat ‘adapted’ to war. For first-year pupils, there are classes inside the subway. Also, a new underground school is currently under construction. However, missile attacks are still frequent. About a month ago, the apartment building next to my father's home was destroyed. About a week ago, my mother's client from her work lost his arm while delivering food to soldiers (everyone else in his team died at that time). Also, because Kharkiv is close to the border, air alarms often go on when rockets have already hit, which makes this city more dangerous.”

Kateryna, meanwhile, returns to Ukraine this summer, but hopes to come back to Leicester if she can secure a place on a Master’s course.

She said: “I like the University, the relationship of teachers to students, the accessibility and ease of access to any information and courses, and in general, I really like the education system in England. As well as the local people, who are always happy to help and support international students.”