A Ukrainian refugee and her British host family will mark the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war by running a half marathon in a bid to raise money for displaced children caught up in the conflict and spread the message to “be more Zelensky”.
Anna Tysovska, 32 and from Kyiv, and Jane Finlay, 57 and from Cornwall, will run the Hampton Court Half Marathon in south-west London on Sunday February 26 as they try to raise funds to buy generators for children in Ukraine.
The run will take place a few days after the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 20 2022 and is one of many initiatives Ms Tysovska has launched to help her country since fleeing the war.
A few weeks after the start of the conflict, Ms Tysovska left Ukraine with her aunt and teenage cousin.
On April 1 2022, they arrived in the UK, where Ms Finlay and her partner took them into their home as part of the Homes For Ukraine scheme, which matched Ukrainians with a UK sponsor to provide suitable accommodation for a minimum of six months.
“Anna is incredibly grateful that her family is safe and warm but they’d prefer to be back in a free Ukraine,” Ms Finlay told the PA news agency.
“We want to help those back in Ukraine by raising money to get generators where there are groups of children without any power or food.”
Since arriving in the UK, Ms Tysovska has been studying for a Masters in psychology, hoping she will be able to help Ukrainians with post-traumatic stress disorder when the war is over.
She has also set up an online shop, A Gift From Ukraine, with Ms Finlay to raise money for the war effort.
One of the items for sale is a T-shirt, which the pair will run the half marathon in and reads “Be more Zelensky” in honor of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
“We wanted to do something that would encourage people to keep supporting, and to ‘be more like Zelensky’ is just to be the best you can be, to be better than what people think you were,” Ms Finlay said.
“Nobody thought Zelensky would be the leader that he’s become today when he was elected.
“To be more Zelensky is to push yourself, back yourself, you know, step outside your comfort zone and do what’s good and right and proper.”
Ms Tysovska told PA: “I told Jane I wanted to do something more for the people of Ukraine because we need to continue the support.
“She was like, ‘Oh, do you want to run a half marathon?’ I know that you Brits are very into marathons and things but I have never done one in my life.
“And also, I kind of hate marathons. I hate every activity. So I decided that it would be a challenge for me and it would be for a good cause.”
Ms Tysovska said the feeling of wanting to help was intensified following a New Year’s Eve attack on Kyiv.
Traditional firework celebrations to mark the new year were replaced by air siren warnings as an intensive Russian missile barrage damaged much of the capital city’s infrastructure.
“New Year’s Eve is a much bigger thing in Ukraine than even Christmas,” Ms Tysovska said. “(The Russians) have no morals. They have nothing. There are no rules in this world.
“Ukrainian winters are much more severe than the winters here. We need to help and buy generators for displaced children. It is really bad in Ukraine right now.
“For example, one of my best friends back in Ukraine is pregnant. She’s due in the next few days. I don’t know how she will give birth to her child because something bad could happen. That occupies my mind a lot.”
Ms Tysovska has been using social media to try to get fellow Ukrainians to join her on the run and hopes there will be a big turn out.
“I hope to see a lot of people at the marathon. We need not just monetary support but spiritual support too,” she said.
“We want to show the people of Ukraine, and I want to show Anna, her family and the people of Ukraine, that people in the UK are still behind them,” Ms Finlay added.
“If there’s any other people from Ukraine who wants to come and run with us, or anybody who wants to run with us, please come.”
The link for the pair’s Crowdfunding page can be found here: justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jane-finlay