A UKRAINIAN teenager who fled her war-torn country says she’s found her second mum after she moved to Barnsley earlier this year.
Karina Tarasenko is just 19 years old - but she’s already faced enough hardship to last a lifetime.
Her home nation was invaded by Vladimir Putin’s Russia in February, leaving thousands of people without a place to live.
Barnsley, who are twinned with Ukrainian town Gorlovka, has opened its heart to refugees - with at least 36 coming to the town through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Karina, who has been forced to leave her boyfriend and other family members back in her home town, moved to England with her mum and eight-year-old sister Sofia - but they’ve been left in a Huddersfield hostel after their sponsors were unable to continue to look after them.
She told the Chronicle: “I live in Millhouse Green now.
“I’m really glad that I have my sponsor, she is amazing and like a second mum for me.
“My sponsor, Emma Jane Phillips, and her mum care about me.
“I found her on the site eu4ua - it was a long list of all sponsors.
“I have a visa for three years and because of the situation in Ukraine I’ll stay here as long as it is possible - it’s a lovely place.
“I have found some friends, but sometimes I feel lonely.
“My mum also lives in Huddersfield with my younger sister Sofia but they are staying in a hotel and looking for a new sponsor, because their sponsor can’t host them anymore.”
Karina, who is originally from Borzna in the Chernigiv region but moved to Kyiv three years ago with her boyfriend, spoke in depth about the horrific situation in Ukraine.
“I woke up at 5am because of a loud sound - my first my thought was about how loud it was, but me and my boyfriend just continued to sleep as we didn’t know that it was war,” she added.
“An hour later and my dad call me and said the war has started - I thought that it was a joke, but then I looked out the window and saw a big line, people staying and waiting for cash because we can’t use debit cards when it’s war.
“The second day my boyfriend decided to go back to his home town but because it was dangerous - there was bombing - I went to my dad’s work.
“All of the days I could hear bombing - it was scary, I was alone with people I didn’t know.”
Karina says for a number of weeks she was only able to sleep for a few hours each night - and she constantly worries for her boyfriend and dad who are still in the war-torn country.
“Some nights we would hide in the basement but it was cold and scary,” Karina added.
“I remember, when me and my new friend went to store to buy a water and bread - we were lucky because they sell bread once or twice a week - and we heard helicopters and an air alarm, so we ran to the basement like crazy dogs.”
After moving between give villages and towns in Ukraine, Karina has ended up in Millhouse Green - and she’s even working at Cubley Hall in Penistone.
She added: “I can speak English so it’s not a big problem but sometimes I can’t get the Barnsley accent.
“I like skating on ice but there’s nowhere to do that here so I miss it.
“I have a lot of friends in Ukraine, but I don’t really have many here.”
Karina is looking to help residents out in the area and is offering to walk and look after dogs for a small fee - contact the Chronicle if this is something you are interested in.