One year ago, on February 24, 2022, Marta Kosar woke up to her mother telling her that war had broken out when Russia invaded their country.

After a week of not going out and trips to a basement when air raid sirens went off in her hometown of Lviv on the western edge of Ukraine16-year-old Kosar began the arduous journey away from his home, his family, his friends and his country.

After leaving Ukraine on March 2, Kosar made his way to Hungary for a week. After Hungary, Kosar made stops in Austria, Spain for a month and Montreal for a few days before landing in London on April 27.

“It was a long way to go,” Kosar told Global News on the eve of the war’s one-year anniversary.

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A little less than five months later, Kosar’s first cousin, 15-year-old Bozehena Melnychuk, arrived from Ukraine on September 24, 2022, leaving her home and family for a temporary safe place with her cousin and aunt Sofiya.

During their time in Ukraine, after the war began, the couple says air raid sirens were a daily occurrence, but luckily bombs weren’t dropped as often.

Kosar and Melnychuk are just two of the more than 150,000 Ukrainians who have made it to Canada since the conflict broke out a year ago.

The teenagers go to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in West London. Both in Year 10, the couple say their teachers and classmates have been “fantastic” in making them feel comfortable.

“They’re very kind and they want to help me get better,” Kosar said of her teachers.

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Kosar and Melnychuk said the adjustment to Canadian high school has gone well, and Kosar said she excels in math now compared to back home.

Melnychuk, who adds that math is something she also finds easier, says she sometimes struggles to communicate in English, having only been in London for five months.

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“I understand the information, but it’s harder to talk,” says Melnychuk, although she adds with confidence that it will improve.

Melnychuk and Kosar expressed gratitude to people in London and Canada who supported Ukrainians, including their host family.

“They’ve helped us with everything and given us a place to call home,” Melnychuk said.

While adjusting to school and living in Canada has been great, there’s one thing they weren’t prepared for: the weather.

“It’s freezing here, and the winds are very strong,” Kosar says with a laugh.

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But as much as their teachers and new friends have worked to help Kosar and Melnychuk feel welcome and adjust to the chilly weather, London is still not their home, nor where their family and friends are. The teenagers keep in touch with family virtually but say it’s not like being in person.

“I miss family, friends, my home, my room,” Kosar says, adding that she misses the simple pleasure of just walking down her home street with neighbors.

Melnychuk says she misses her mother and older sister, who attend university.

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Unlike some of the 150,000 Ukrainians in Canada displaced by the war, Kosar and Melnychuk say coming to Canada was part of their life plans. It arrived just a few years ahead of schedule.

Both say that before the war, Western University was already earmarked as a place to continue their studies after high school. Melnychuk says she wants to study engineering, while Kosar wants to study cosmetology or dermatology.

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Kosar says she looks forward to the day when she sees her family again. Still, she reiterates that she plans for Canada to be a part of her future life.

“I’m starting a new life and I want to finish my studies here,” says Kosar.

“Hopefully I can go home in the summer for a month to see family and friends.”

The London branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress is hosting a candlelight vigil at City Hall on Friday at 6 p.m.

Daria Hryckiw, the president of the London chapter, says there will be prayers led by local Catholic, Orthodox and Pentecostal leaders, as well as remarks from Mayor Josh Morgan and local Ukrainians.

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“We will light candles, pray and support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” Hryckiw said.

— with files from The Canadian Press.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.