A Ukrainian couple have shared their heart-breaking story of leaving behind their “dream home” in Odesa where they were forced to sleep in their basement with their three children when the war started.

Hanna and Dmytro Verlan came to Bolton just over three weeks ago to escape the increasing drones and missile attacks.

The couple built their dream home in Odesa, not far from the sea – which was “the house of their dreams” and included a basement for entertainment.

The family spent some time in Moldova, Romania, and Austria, with the places both being so close to Odesa.

Dmytro, a grain commodity broker, said: “We didn’t know that this basement would be the place we would sleep for the night.

The Bolton News: Hanna VerlanHanna Verlan (Image: Newsquest)

“On the very first day of the war in 2022 we moved out of our Ukrainian house as a family because we were scared.

“Nobody understood what was going on and what would happen.

“We didn’t want to go too far from home because we believed this would finish soon.”

In October 2022 the family returned to their home, after spending six months in Austria.

They wanted to be able to use their resources to keep warm, but there were a lot of blackouts all over Ukraine at the time.

“Odesa became the city of generators.

“We had electricity for four hours a day, which was not in the evening, and we had no communication on our mobiles or even landlines, so we couldn’t even phone our family.”

The Bolton News: Dmytro VerlanDmytro Verlan (Image: Newsquest)

Dmytro added: “We had one strong understanding that we would get through it because the winter would be over one day.

“After new year in 2023 every day had a few more minutes of sunlight.”

It got to the point where the family had to stay in their basement more often because of the sound of the explosions, missiles, and drones they could hear.

Dmytro added: “We were not safe anymore.

“We had everything we wanted but we couldn’t enjoy it.

“You can not live your life like this and there was no safety for our three children.

“Our three children are the biggest three reasons we are here now.

“We wouldn’t have moved without them.”

Through Dmytro’s business connections with a British company, the family were able to safely move to Bolton with a family helping to sponsor them.

Dmytro said: “People over here have been very kind and helpful.

“The first night we arrived here, we couldn’t sleep properly, just because it was so quiet.

“After shelters and basements, it was so unusual.

“Our kids slept well but we woke up several times per night, listening out for anything that was going on.

“We couldn’t understand we were in a safe place.

“We heard helicopters and airplanes here, but Ukraine stopped anything flying from the airports since the war began.

“If we heard any noises in Ukraine something was usually going on with the military.”

The family say that they are extremely grateful that they came here at the right time due to the uncertainty of what would happen next, as well as the destruction of the Spaso-Preobrazhensky cathedral.

The bombing of the cathedral was particularly difficult for the family given that it is listed as a Unesco heritage site and meant a lot to the people of Odesa.

Hanna said: “It was destroyed by the Soviets in 1936, and in the early 2000’s citizens of Odesa were able to get the funds to rebuild it, and now this.

“It’s very important for the city and is at the heart of the city.

“We are lucky that we moved here when we did, but at the same time we still have a lot of friends and relatives in Odesa, and we are not relaxed, we are just safe.

“As Ukrainians we want thank the British for what they have done and for what they are doing and being some of the first to help Ukrainians.”

If you have a story and something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at jasmine.jackson@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on Twitter @JournoJasmine.