A seven-year-old Ukrainian figure skater who fled the war to live with a host family in Bristol has returned home.
Gosha Mandziuk and his mother Iryna arrived in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine program in April 2022.
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After appearing on Sky NewsDancing On Ice star Matt Evers reached out to help train Gosha, who competes nationally at home and was also on an ice hockey team
Now he and Iryna have made the difficult decision to return to Kyiv.
“We are happy, we like to be at home, even in these difficult times,” said Iryna.
“For us exactly, it’s the right decision. Because Gosha was crying, sometimes depressed, because he was separated from his father.
“He was worried when he would see him again, maybe he would already be an adult – so it made him sad.
“When we arrived, it took me maybe over a month to adjust. It sounds strange, but I really needed time to adjust back to my house, to my house. , because we had so many changes.
“The city looked a bit depressed, you can tell war is in the air.”
“They are part of us now”
Despite facing the threat of missiles and frequent power outages, Gosha managed to resume a full training regimen at his local rink.
Iryna said: “We’re on a normal regimen now – we train three to five full days a week. Usually three lessons a day.
“Very soon [after returning] we were already in the rink with all our coaches and a big team, and we started step by step, slowly at first. It was difficult because it was a long break.”
The couple have spent four months living with their host family in Bristol and say they continue to keep in touch.
“I think they’re part of us now, not like friends,” Iryna said.
“When I think of them or we communicate in Messenger, it’s like parents. Like aunts or uncles.”
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“We would like to come back”
Iryna says she hopes they can return to England under different circumstances.
“We would like to come as tourists,” she said.
“I would like to see them in kyiv if we have peace, and they would like to come, because I know they like to travel a lot. Gosha wants to go back there this summer.”
Although relieved to be reunited with her family, Iryna admits that life in the capital can be difficult.
“We understood the risk,” she said. “When we came back now, the risk is higher. Is it our decision. Some people cannot live in such conditions, such fear, such anxiety.
“I really don’t want to go anywhere. We live, not in fear, but all the time, in anxiety. The level of anxiety is quite high. But I don’t have the energy to go somewhere because it’s also difficult, and you need energy for it.
“At home, we are calm because we are all together.”