A Ukrainian family said they “feel at home” as they headed 200 miles north to celebrate the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool – despite national train strikes.
Olena Ablaieva and her daughter Vasylysa, 14, are originally from Dnipro but are now living with a host family in Sidcup, south-east London, following Russia’s invasion of their home country.
Ms Ablaieva told the PA news agency they were travelling from London Euston to Liverpool and hope to be able to watch the final at Liverpool’s Pier Head, where the Eurovision Village has been set up for fans.
The UK is jointly hosting the contest with Ukraine after last year’s victory by the Kalush Orchestra. UK entry Sam Ryder finished second.
“We do not have tickets, we will watch Eurovision on big screens,” she said.
“We have been living in England for a year in a friendly English family. As it turned out, we have many common interests and family values.
“We hope that the war in Ukraine will end soon and all Ukrainian families will be able to be together in safety.
“We knew in advance about the strikes on the railway in London, but we had no doubts about our trip to Liverpool. It is important for us to feel the whole atmosphere of Eurovision for ourselves.”
“In my opinion, Liverpool is fully prepared for the Eurovision final and it’s nice to see Ukrainian flags and Ukrainian symbols everywhere.
“I feel at home. We appreciate your support and our friendship.
“We also want to do something nice for people from England. I have brought some presents from Ukraine – sweets from AVK, which I want to share with everyone who wants to know a bit more about Ukraine.”
Millions of people around the world will be tuning in to watch the Eurovision final on Saturday, with thousands already spending the week celebrating in Merseyside as the semi-finals got underway earlier this week.