For most people in the UK, the war in Ukraine is seen as being dreadful but emotionally as well as physically distant from their day-to-day lives.

For Labour Party Senedd member Mick Antoniw, the Welsh government's most senior legal adviser, it is deeply personal. He was brought up within a Ukrainian community and still has many relatives who live under the Russian threat.

Just a week before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Antoniw was part of a Welsh Assembly visit headed by the then Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price to the Ukrainian capital to see the situation firsthand. The team actually only left the day before the war started – a lucky escape but which he said at the time filled him with guilt.

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Since then, Antoniw has used his position to lobby for political support for Ukraine as well as fundraising through his Labour Party and Trade Union contacts to raise funds to provide aid to Ukraine, including pick-up trucks and “enormous amounts of medical supplies,” and has himself carried out deliveries to Ukraine with other Welsh volunteers.

Antoniw's father was a World War II refugee from Zolochiv, in western Ukraine. He was forcibly taken by the Germans to France before eventually arriving at a camp for displaced persons in Scotland. Other members of the family were deported to Siberia during the Soviet era.

Antoniw was born in Reading in southern England and speaks Ukrainian, after being brought up in the Ukrainian community. It was only following the collapse of the Soviet Union that he was able to establish contact with relatives in Ukraine. He does all he can to keep in touch with those who still remain in Ukraine, some in the east and others who are serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

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He says that he draws on his family background as part of the Ukrainian refugee diaspora, and his experience on the EU’s Committee of the Regions, to detail how Wales could build on its historic relationship with Ukraine, particularly its mining communities in Donetsk and elsewhere.

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