Like any young mother-to-be Khrystyna Malychok had everything carefully planned ahead, from the colour of her new baby's nursery to the exact position of his crib.

What she could never have expected was a war that would isolate her from her family and see the first five month's of her newborn son's life spent living aboard a cruise ship.

The 30-year-old, her husband Ivan, 32, and their little boy were among 1300 Ukrainian refugees who made their home on the MV Ambition, docked in Glasgow on the River Clyde.

A now-familiar site to anyone who travels the M8 or lives near the water, the vessel was turned into floating emergency accommodation for refugees arriving seeking safety.

On March 31 the ship's contract with the Scottish Government comes to an end and, in the coming days, the ship will set sail, leaving behind it mixed memories from the people who called it their home.


Khrystyna and Ivan arrived in Scotland on November 15 with their one-month-old baby. They had been on holiday in Vienna visiting Khrystyna's family when war broke out.

"My situation is a bit different from other Ukrainians because we didn't decide to leave, we decided not to return because if we came back my husband wouldn't be able to leave the country any more," she said.

"We were expecting a baby at the time and my husband couldn't leave me in such a sensitive state."

While Khrystyna speaks German her husband does not, and so they chose to come to an English-speaking country - she is an English teacher - for "a fresh start".

They flew into Edinburgh from Vienna and were welcomed at the hub. She added: "I had read different things about the liners and different things Ukrainians had said about the liners but when we arrived we saw it was really nice and it was warm.

"Of course there were some minor discomforts that you face living not at home but they were nothing in comparison to all the pros that we had there - not only safety but the most important was the Ukrainian community that we had there.

"In Ukraine we all had communities already but here we don't and it's important to have someone to talk to, having someone who understands and is in the same situation is very pleasant.

"I consider it was a nice time for us. The nice place and the community did the job."

Khrystyna's baby was the youngest on board the ship and she made friends with other families. She said: "When everyone started moving out it became much sadder."


Her closest friend on board MV Ambition has been relocated to Oban but they hope to keep in touch. 

Khrystyna's son is the first grandchild on both sides and he is yet to meet any family other than his maternal grandfather, which is a loss felt keenly by grandparents.

She said: "It still is very difficult for me to cope with all the situation. The first few months after the beginning were the worst because I was pregnant and when you are expecting you want it to be at home with all the family circle.

"I had my plans. I knew where the crib should be in my flat. But, oh well, it wasn't meant to happen."

As the cruise ship contract came to an end, the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council have been working to rehome all onboard.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the MV Ambition was a temporary measure to ensure Scotland could respond to the humanitarian crisis facing people in Ukraine and provide an immediate place of safety for displaced people.

He added: "Guests will have access to the support they need to build a home in Scotland for as long as they need it.

"The Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council have worked intensively to support the guests on board MS Ambition to make an informed decision about their onward accommodation, which may include a hosted arrangement, social housing or alternative welcome accommodation."

Housing pressures in Glasgow mean that some people on the ship have moved further afield to other local authority areas. 

Some have gone to host families, some back to Ukraine, others to neighbouring authorities, and many found their own accommodation, via private rents and housing associations.

Khrystyna's family has moved to a village in East Ayrshire where they hope to build a new community and settle in.

They have been there for 10 days and so far haven't met any other Ukrainians.

Her husband is job hunting and her baby is thriving. She has been overwhelmed by the constant kindness and generosity of Scots but Khrystyna is living for the day they can return home.

Khrystyna added: "This is the first grandson for both of our parents. They suffer from that. We all suffer from this situation. They are happy that we are safe and well treated.

"Scotland did give us the warm welcome as they promised but we hope as soon as possible for the war to be over.

"We try to settle, we try to live our lives but it's all in the hopes of going back one day. We lived good lives in Ukraine. We had no intention to move out of Ukraine before the war."

The end of the Scottish Government's contract with MV Ambition comes as the UK government has announced plans to purchase cruise liners on which to house refugees.

The scheme has been met with derision in light of the terrible conditions asylum seekers and refugees have faced in British hotels and in temporary accommodation such as army barracks in England.

Speaking to a number of Ukrainians, however, the situation on board the Ambition appears to have been largely positive - perhaps thanks to the fact it was always to be temporary.

Rebecca Menzies, refugee integration service manager at Scottish Refugee Council, said her team had been present on the ship twice a week delivering information sessions and giving one to one advice. Alongside Scottish Government and local authority and other agencies.

The ships were always meant to be short term housing solutions so we know that people arriving in Scotland should have the chance to become part of local communities and set up home, begin to integrate and work so being on the ships can be quite isolating.

While some people appreciated the space and the safety, we really support the local authority move to find more suitable long term accommodation solutions for people."

One of the positives of the ship, she says, was the coordination of various agencies working on board from the DWP to the Scottish Government matching team, education services from Glasgow City Council and third sector organisations.

Rebecca spoke particularly of education services and the work onboard to ensure every child and young people had access to learning and teaching.

MV Ambition resident Yurii Kompam spent every morning ensuring his seven-year-old son was off to his new Glasgow school safely before starting work remotely for the telephone company he had worked with in Ukraine.

The 34-year-old, his wife and son were among the first 100 people on board the liner when they arrived in Scotland in September last year and they spent five months there before recently moving to live with a host family in Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire.

His wife left first, heading to Latvia, before they were reunited and moved to Scotland.

"At first it felt like empty, for the first couple of weeks, and then we have a lot of people who come to our boat and after one or two months we have 1300 people on board," he said.

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"It's not hard for our children because they have a lot of friends and they can play together. It's a big boat, a big ship, and it was a novelty for them.

"We have meals, gym, cinema and the NHS on the boat, people from Job Centre on the boat, and we don't have to go and find these people in the city so it made it easier.

"The biggest problem was you can't go to walk from the boat, you have to go and sit on the shuttle bus because our destination in port."

He describes the month on board as a "good experience", although the smell from nearby factories could become a bit much and sickness - such as colds and flu - spread quickly on board. When I ask if Yurii has felt welcomed in Scotland he erupts: "Of course," he says, animated. "Scotland's people are so kind, a lot of people help us. I find a lot of friends from my Trespass."

This is the first time the famous Alan comes up in conversation. "We have a shuttle bus driver, his name is Alan. Every person from our boat loved Alan."

Yurii names a string of small kindnesses in rapid succession.

"He always helped us to get off at the right stop when we ask, he spoke to our children and smiled. He is my best friend in Scotland. I can always text him to ask him anything. I love Scotland's people.

"People from Job Centre after a couple of months of going there they always smile, give hugs, ask how are you doing? It's so cool."

Yurii's wife is learning English and Yurii took a second job in a clothing store at Braehead Shopping Centre to ensure he could send money back to Ukraine to friends who fighting.


His Lenzie host family are "wonderful, so kind" and for his son's birthday they posted in a Lenzie Facebook group which prompted people to turn up at the house with gifts. Someone brought a bouncy castle.

Of course, his mind is always on his family at home in Odesa, in the south of the country and one of three ports being used to ship grain under a UN-brokered deal.

He added: "It's so hard always, this war needs to end soon. I can't listen to music because yes, I am in safety but, I feel bad about it, it's so hard when you see what has happened in Ukraine.

"We want the war ended."

Does he hope to go back? "I can't answer this question," he says. "In future always your mother country is Ukraine and we love this country but we don't know what will happen in future."

Veronika Perepelytsia arrived in Scotland on her own, leaving her father and brother behind in Kyiv, one of the worst affected cities following the Russian invasion.

The 30-year-old is now in hotel accommodation awaiting a permanent council flat and spent five months on board the vessel.

A seasoned travelled - Scotland is her 38th country visited - Veronika made a network on board the MV Ambition, organising social events including a Friday night round of a game called Mafia.


Life on the ship, she says, was "weird" but luxurious with decent food - the crew laid on a full traditional Ukrainian Christmas dinner - and five star surroundings.

It's the little things she's excited about now. "I am excited to live somewhere where I can open a window," she says.

The famous Alan was one of the best things about MV Ambition: "Oh my God, he's a legend. He's the biggest hero of everyone. He's everyone's friend. Let me tell you the stories of me and Alan." One involves a lot of public singing to the Backstreet Boys and the other is a search for Old Firm tickets.

Veronika is a big football fan and had already applied for a UK visa to come to Scotland to watch a match before the war started and so she stuck with the plan of moving here.

She is determined to give back in thanks for the kindness she received and is now working as a project worker for the charity Barnardos.

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Her father and brother miss her but are glad she is safe. She wasn't sure she would leave Ukraine but they wanted her to go somewhere out of harm's way.

She said: "My neighbourhood was near the worst area and I got used to the sounds and the devastation and the curfew but then I realised, what if it becomes worse and I don't have the options to move somewhere.


"I had flights in November to go back but I had a conversation with my father and he told me to stay here.

"My father and brother don't want to leave the country even if they have a chance because they are so proud of the city and are so proud to be citizens of Kyiv."

What will she do next?  "At this time I couldn't plan anything, I couldn't. For the moment I'm so good here. I can sleep again without any air raids, nothing disturbs you and you don't worry if the bombs will fall or not, or if this night you will not stay well.

"Here is like normal life again. Well, it's not normal but it's something near to how I lived before and the country and the government are so supportive of Ukrainians."