A teenager in the first family to move to Devon from Ukraine after the Russian conflict broke out says she’s excited about her future – even though she cannot return home.

Anastasia Bulhakova, 17, moved to the South Hams two years ago when her family escaped the war.

Talking to this newspaper she said: “It felt like the war came from nowhere. I had no idea my life was about to turn upside down. We woke up at four in the morning to the sound of bombs dropping in my city, and messages flooding into my phone saying that a war had started.”

Anastasia, along with her parents and two younger siblings, immediately knew they had to leave Ukraine for their safety, so they travelled to near Moldova where their grandparents lived.

She said: “We didn’t have time to collect any of our things, everyone was starting to leave as quickly as they could. People were running, cars were frantically driving everywhere- it didn’t feel real, and it still doesn’t. It was like an apocalypse or something you see in films.”

As the bombings became progressively worse, Anastasia and her family wanted to move further away to seek safety and protection.

Through ‘UK Home’, a sponsorship site, the family were put in touch with a couple from Salcombe who offered to sponsor them so that they could move to the UK and start a better life.

The family didn’t speak a word of English so they knew that making this move would be a challenge from the start: “Our sponsors Jane and Brian provided us with a translator so we could communicate with them and learn English. They let us stay in a house in Kingsbridge, and we are still renting this same house now. They made what was such a daunting, intense time so much easier and we will be forever grateful for them.”

After a three-day train trip from Poland to the UK, the Bulhakova family officially became the first family to move to Devon, and with the help and support of Jane and Brian, began their new lives in Kingsbridge.

Anastasia started school two weeks later and immediately began studying for her GCSE’s which took place that same academic year, as well as learning English.

“Starting school with no friends and no way of communicating with people was the hardest part, I thought everyone was just going to laugh at me. But all my teachers and classmates were so supportive and would even stay extra hours to help.”

Anastasia achieved all her GCSEs and is now studying for her A levels next year and says she has so many more aspirations for herself now which she never had before.

“I have no future in Ukraine right now, I can’t go back to my home or see my friends which is the worst feeling in the world. But we have been so lucky, and I am so excited about my future now.”

Anastasia's siblings made this poster (Anastasia Bulhakova)
Happy times (Anastasia Bulhakova)