Ukrainian refugee Sofiia Volovyk is embarking on a huge 589-mile walk from Swindon to the highest peak in the UK.
The goal of her trek to Bn Nevis in Scotland is to raise £100,000, with half of the money going to help Ukrainians who have arrived in the UK and the other half to a charity which helps the people on the ground in Ukraine.
Sofiia, 22, is leaving for the walk on Wednesday, 24 August, Ukraine’s National ‘Independence Day’.
After having to flee her city, Kyiv, in March, two weeks after the war began, Sofiia travelled through five countries and over 3,000 miles through Poland, Germany, Belgium and Ireland before finally arriving in the UK.
“We travelled on so many buses and trains and received amazing gifts of shelter from families along the way.” said Sofiia.
"After seven weeks of travelling we finally arrived in London and travelled to Swindon to our new host that we found through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.”
With the help of other hosts and newly arrived Ukrainians, Sofiia created the Swindon Welcomes Ukraine committee to help support and integrate the Ukrainian refugees into the community in Swindon.
The committee’s main work has been to secure extra English classes, over 100 free bikes, fixed up from donations, and help Ukrainians find work locally as well as bringing the community together for arts and music events.
Joining Sofiia on her walk is fellow Ukrainian Borys Livshyts, 65, an ultra-distance walker. Sofiia met Borys at an organised hiking event in 2020 in Kyiv where Sofiia achieved a personal record of 100km in 25 hours.
Borys has personally walked huge distances, even setting a 2021 record in Ukraine by walking 255km without sleep and food in only 71 hours.
Sofiia will set off from Swindon and journey North to eventually climb Ben Nevis. The 589-mile journey should take 25 days to complete and will wind through countryside, hills and rough terrain before finally ascending the challenging peak.
Along the way Sofiia hopes to also unite and meet up with other Ukrainian community groups similar to Swindon Welcomes Ukraine, that have been created since the Homes for Ukraine scheme was set up.
Sofiia said: “This journey, other than fundraising, is deeply rooted in my personal values of freedom and independence, ingrained in me from a young age. Ukraine, as a nation, had to fight for its independence many years ago and now our fight for freedom from oppression has never been greater. Ukrainians have become modern day pilgrims and so my challenge represents our collective journey to safety.”
Half of the money raised will support supporting the UK’s Ukrainian community through specific projects created by Swindon Welcomes Ukraine, and the other half will go to a charity close to Sofiia’s heart, Rescue Now, which provides evacuation and humanitarian aid.
Leaving behind many friends and family in Ukraine was hard for Sofiia. She said: “Some people just didn’t want to leave their country and I understand that feeling. I have been so welcomed by the people of the UK, and so I am dedicating this walk to help those we left behind, and also those that have landed and settled here.
"It is my dream to build a positive Ukrainian community here in the UK, and help rebuild the one back home too.”
Sofiia will carry a live tracker provided by Follow My Challenge, and will be live blogging daily along the route.
To donate to Sofiia’s Justgiving page, people are asked to visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sofiia-volovyk