On 22-23 December, right before the Christmas holidays, most members of Oxford University Ukrainian Society went on a two-day outing to Winchester and the Isle of Wight organised by Tomas Tokovyi and Denis Karlovsky.
On day 1, our team visited the Winchester cathedral, where the guides kindly offered to make a tour around the temple for displaced Ukrainian scholars without an admission fee. We were awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the Gothic arches and vaults in the naves and chapels. Next, we spent the rest of the day seeing the ancient walls of the city, Winchester College, Wolvesey Castle and the Great Hall. The sweetest moment of our first day was left for the Winchester Cathedral Christmas market renowned throughout the UK. Sipping mulled wine and nibbling our lunch, we laughed over our previous Christmas joyous stories.
On day 2, our team braced themselves to the extraordinarily gusty winds and embarked on a ferry from Southampton to the Isle of Wight. As the vessel was coming into the port of West Cowes, the cloud-laden skies cleared up and the bright sunlight beamed upon the island. It brightened up our mood and we set out on the most daring part of our journey, the Needles at the westernmost tip of the Isle. Through the gale-force winds our team made it to the clifftop of the Needles and was delighted with a truly eye-popping view. The landscape seemed otherworldly as we were listening to the gentle sound of waves lapping deep below us and the wind stroking the pristine grass turf. We proudly held the Ukrainian flag to mark the highest point of our journey. After a day out in the wilderness, our group set off for Newport to enjoy drinks and dinner.
But there is more to it than meets the eye: the most gratifying moments of our journey took place during our late evening in accommodation in Southampton. After we laughed while playing board games and singing the Ukrainian Christmas carols late into the night, we got much closer and kinder to each other, creating a family-like community far from home. With this journey Ukrainian scholars of Oxford created Christmas magic themselves despite the anxiety and stress of the news coming from Ukraine this winter. We cherish a hope that OUUS members will go on another trip soon to get well-acquainted with the diversity of culture in the UK.