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'It breaks your heart': Ukrainian scientist leaves family behind to carry out Antarctic climate research

A Ukrainian scientist has told Sky News of her heartbreak at leaving behind loved ones in a war zone while she carries out vital climate research 10,000 miles away in Antarctica.

Anzhelika Hanchuk, a meteorologist, is part of a 12-strong team of scientists and support staff who will spend the next year on the country’s remote Vernadsky research base.

During the fast-approaching Antarctic winter, the base is cut off from the outside world by thick sea ice, with no route in or out. Communication with friends and family back home is limited.

“Sometimes when nobody sees I can cry a little bit at how I miss them,” she said.


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The young scientist is currently travelling south on the Ukrainian polar ship ‘Noosphere’

“When you go far away and your family is in a country with war, it really breaks your heart.

“Some people who are now on our station will have lost homes because some cities don’t exist anymore.

More on Antarctica

“That’s why it’s so hard here.”

Anzhelika was living just north of Kyiv when Russia invaded, fleeing the advancing troops just in time to join the Antarctic mission.

She is currently travelling south on the Ukrainian polar ship Noosphere, which is carrying supplies to last the Vernadsky base through the winter.

Anzhelika Hanchuk
Anzhelika has limited contact with her friends and family

The research station is where the ozone hole was first discovered in 1985 while it was run by British Antarctic Survey.

Ukrainian scientists continue to monitor the ozone layer, which shields the planet from harmful UV radiation. Maintaining the data record was seen as crucial – despite the war at home.

“This is data is very important because it will help the world know when and how the ozone hole heals,” Anzhelika said.

“There is a lot of other science we should do. We can’t lose this (record) because we can’t have the data gap.”

The research station is where the ozone hole was first discovered in 1985

The ship’s crew includes 21 Ukrainians. They have become an extended family, supporting each other and swapping what little news they can glean from home.

She said the stunning scenery is also a welcome distraction.

“Unfortunately we haven’t seen whales yet. But the ancient mountains and the blue glaciers and the purity of snow – it calms our hearts from all our tears and all the bad thoughts.

“So we are a little bit reborn after we’ve seen the beauty of Antarctica.”


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