Born and bred Londoner Volodymyr Muzyczka’s mother and father fled Ukraine following the Second World War after suffering Nazi and Soviet persecution.

He describes a now misplaced photo, taken years after his father arrived in the UK in 1947, outside 10 Downing Street.

“My father, in one hand is holding a placard saying: ‘Freedom for Ukraine’. And in the other he is holding my hand.

“This Saturday I went there with my son,” Hackney resident Volodymyr explained.

He, like many other people of Ukrainian heritage living in the UK, felt compelled to gather outside 10 Downing Street on February 26, three days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

He told the Gazette: “The world has not been listening to what Ukrainians have been saying for a long time.”

Volodymyr is a board member of the Association of Ukrainians and a church warden of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in London.

He met his wife, who is from Ukraine, in the church’s choir.

The unfolding crisis, brought on by ongoing Russian military attacks, has affected his family greatly.

“My wife’s family is all still there," Volodymyr said.

“Most of mine was destroyed by the Soviets.

“I have distant cousins there but no-one directly.

“But my wife still has a mother, a father, a brother. All the nephews and uncles and aunts and she’s absolutely petrified.”

Volodymyr’s seven-year-old son has also been “incredibly distraught” over what has been happening.

The church warden said how the youngster, who attends school in Hackney, asked him recently: “Dad, do you think the Russians want to kill me because they hate me?”

Volodymyr says Ukraine was “heavily oppressed during Soviet times”.

“They tried to destroy the language the culture, basically Russify Ukraine.

“And then when Ukraine gained its independence, we breathed a sigh of relief.

The Ukrainian people “just wanted to be left alone, to get on”, he said.

Volodymyr continued: “They are not aggressive people.

“Not one millimetre of Russian territory was ever taken by anybody from Ukraine and it’s just unbelievable that there I was in ‘66 with dad and here I am now in 2022, now with my own son, holding the same placard outside the same premises.

“At least the world is now waking up to what the Russians are doing.”

But the community leader does not blame the Russian people, who he says are also suffering.

“Those body bags going home with Russian soldiers, we pray for them as well," Volodymyr added.

"Their children’s fathers have been sent into a war that need not have happened.”

On Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended a service at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral on Bond Street, meeting with community leaders, including Volodymyr.

That evening the government announced a further £40million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, bringing the total amount of UK government aid pledged to the country this year to £140m.

In addition, the government has said Ukrainian family members of people who have settled in the UK are welcome to join them.

Along with humanitarian aid, the UK has also provided Ukraine with arms and implemented sanctions on Russia.

The Prime Minister said: “The UK will not turn our backs in Ukraine’s hour of need."

While Volodymyr says many Ukrainians would like to see NATO “control the skies”, he does not think this is possible.

He adds that the Ukrainian community in Britain is “grateful” with what the British government is doing: “I think they have honestly been leading many other nations in sending arms and humanitarian aid."

Volodymyr was also thankful for the outpouring of support from people, including a vigil which took place in Hackney on March 1.

“We do appreciate it – we appreciate peoples' thoughts, prayers and support," he said.

"Let’s just not to let this drop off the news agenda as the invasion of Ukraine in Crimea and the east of Ukraine just dropped off the news agenda - it became the new normal.

"And we can't allow what's happening in Ukraine now to become the new normal. It is not normal in a civilised society in 2022 for another country to invade a peace loving democratic nation."

UK Ukrainian churches and other groups have set up a GoFundMe page to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. The page has seen more than £1m donated so far.

To donate visit