THE first Ukrainian refugee to arrive in Hexham has spoken of her journey to the UK.

Svitlana Pohasiy and her 14-year-old daughter Olexandra, who were living in Kyiv, are being hosted by Sarah Kemp and her partner John Cobb, who are artistic directors of Hexham-based Théâtre Sans Frontières (TSF).

They will stay at the house of Sarah and John's neighbours, who are away for six months.

Sarah said they had signed up for the business exchange programme Erasmus for Young Entrepeneurs a long time ago.

Svitlana, a filmmaker and director who runs a children's filmmaking festival, then wrote to Sarah in October to say she was interested in coming to Hexham.

Sarah said at the time they were waiting on project funding, but by the time she got back to Svitlana to say they would like her to come over, the war in Ukraine had started.

They are still hopeful the exchange programme will happen but Svitlana and Olexandra have come to the UK via the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Svitlana said: "My husband came home, maybe on March 15, and said 'pack your bags and go to Poland' because he heard about the Russian army beginning to bomb Kyiv."

She said she did not want to leave Kyiv as she had been volunteering to look after people who had fled from Irpin to the county's capital city.

"But my husband and my mother said to me 'Please think about your daughter'," she said.

The pair first travelled to Lviv, then onto the Polish border. After staying in Warsaw with a friend for a few days, she then travelled to Berlin before she went to Brussels to stay with a Russian friend who lives there.

"It was exhausting," said Svitlana, who described train carriages on her journey being crammed full of people.

Svitlana lived in Russia for five years while studying and said she has many Russian friends who have helped her.

She then got the Eurostar to London before she travelled up to Hexham.

"It's a small town but it's very nice and beautiful," said Svitlana.

Sarah and Svitlana are hoping to work together on some of TSF's projects.

Her husband, a film producer, remains in Kyiv and is helping to organise the making of bullet proof vests.

Sarah said the Ukrainian government announced this week that there is going to be a fourth round of conscription, so it is now possible Svitlana's husband could be conscripted.

Her mother has also stayed in Ukraine and does not want to move.