Voices of Ukraine
Individuals as well as branches of the School of Philosophy and Economic Science, and also associated Schools overseas, have had opportunities to meet Ukrainians in their hour of need. Here are just some of the accounts and events from 3 women travelling from Ukraine with children and pets. For child protection, names have been changed and exact locations omitted.
For the last month or so the team has been preparing to host an extended family of six from Ukraine. The building has been converted into a beautiful home with furniture, appliances, soft furnishings, technology, toys, toiletries, kitchenware and food kindly donated by members of the School of Philosophy, local employees, our families and our local community. After a mountain of paperwork and a great deal of hard work they have finally arrived. Two mothers and four children were travelling with their pets, a cat and a dog; during this epic journey the dog gave birth to puppies!
A message from the family:
We firstly want to thank all of you for everything you have done for us. It is too much! We do not know how to thank you. We never thought we would find ourselves in this situation. On 24th February we had 5 minutes to decide whether to leave our family, our home in Sumy and all our possessions. I had not been able to sleep for many nights previous and had made sure all our paperwork was in order (although in the end I forgot all our children’s medical records!). We grabbed only the essentials such as the documents, our animals and left in only the clothes we were standing in. My husband gave me a 5-minute lesson on how to change a tyre and check the oil, we checked the best route out through the roadblocks, met my cousin on the way and headed west. Our husbands who are in the police force risked punishment to take us some of the way but as the tanks rolled along the street, they collected their guns and said goodbye.
We waited a long time in Warsaw. Our journey was long and arduous, we had no plan, each time we stopped we found a new opportunity, we asked God and we proceeded with the next task. Everyone has been so kind, despite having no money we have never been hungry. At the refugee centres all the volunteers were amazing, particularly in Holland, but we could never have got here without the help of Jennie. Her support has been incredible – to know that someone was working too hard for us kept us strong. We have no words – our hearts are full.
The final part of the journey, trying to get on the boat was the most emotional time. We had every bit of paperwork that had taken so long to get but we were still questioned about the puppies and frantically calling Jennie to call customs 10 minutes before the gate was closing. I was crying but finally, they let us through – we made it! I was scared of driving on the UK roads, but we couldn’t stop because of quarantine rules. We made it to [our destination] at 2:35 am on Friday 13th May, exactly 11 weeks since we fled our home. We cannot describe how welcome we feel. Thank you again.
When we woke up early yesterday to get ready for a morning coffee in [the village], Artem (4) said “I want to stay at home. I don’t want to go again!” This time we do not have to. We are safe for now.
Alisiia, Halyna, Andriy, Anastasiya, Daniela, Artem [children’s names changed]
Nice to greet you! We are Liudmyla and Yulya [name changed]. We have found ourselves in London thanks to our new friends Jacek and Margaret from Poland, who helped us to do the first steps to move to UK.
It’s always not an easy decision to change your life so cardinal and start a new life in a new place but when bombs fall on your city and you hear artillery blasts you look for an escape in a safe place. And only because of care, help, love, great support you feel you have power!
From our first steps on English land we got tremendous help from our sponsor Milena, who settled us in a wonderful place, Christine and Donald helped us from the very beginning as well. Then we had super advice and help from William with taking Yulya to school. And really important and caring family, who made us feel like home is Therese and Richard. We feel much gratitude to those people in Great Britain, who decided to give their love and support to Ukrainians. Lots of thanks for our happy moments here, hugs for everyone
North East branch, UK
Students from the School and members of the local community worked together to create a comfortable family home environment. The local Ukrainian centre provided continuous support, facilitating the initial contact with the families and ongoing support. For the family’s arrival, students and friends from the local Ukrainian centre joined Oleksandra, Veronica and Ivan (names changed) for a Ukrainian meal and welcome cake. They are now settled and have daily support from Pamela, and her dog Georgie who has already made firm friends with Veronica. Currently, Pam is taking the family to the coast for a short holiday.
We are now preparing to accommodate our second family, a mother and her four year old twin boys, who are due to arrive on 13 June. The service and generosity of so many in the School as we continue this much needed support is wonderful and greatly appreciated.
There are no words to describe the size of the tragedy which took place in Ukraine in the centre of Europe in the 21st century. Life for my family and millions others were broken in one day. Me with two little children had to leave my husband, our home and went into uncertainty to be safe from the horrible war. As many others we did not want to believe that it could happen, but prepared and had a plan in case of a critical situation. As practice has shown, it is impossible to prepare for war. We felt the full scale of the catastrophe while standing in a many kilometre long traffic jams during the evacuation from Kyiv under rocket fire. After that it was a way to the western border, weeks in cold basements with non stop sound of air alert, and desperate rush to cross the Polish border, standing in line for about a day. We were lucky that we managed to leave, but many people in occupied territories failed. Many now know about the atrocities of Russian occupiers in Bucha, Irpen, Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities.
In Poland, we were given shelter by a very good family who had 3 children and average living conditions. They tried very hard to make us comfortable and help us in any way they could. In that situation, we understood that we could not constrain them for an opportunity to move on. Then we learned about the British governments program of assistance to Ukrainians who are fleeing the war. Thanks to our friends from the Ukrainian community, Peter and Eugen Chimeras, we applied and got the opportunity to have asylum in the city of Leeds.
Britain and the British in this difficult time for us have become our hope and support. This is felt both at state level and in relation to ordinary Ukrainians. We are very grateful for the extremely warm welcome and care that we have received from the wonderful people of Leeds. I especially want to thank the School of Philosophy and Ann for the shelter, Pam and Janice for the care and help in adapting, as well as all caring British who help us every day.
We believe in Ukraine’s victory in the war against rashism* and a quick long awaited return home to our relatives and friends. I am strictly convinced that light will conquer darkness and we will continue to live in peace and raise children in a free, independent and prosperous Ukraine.
*Rashism is the word the Ukrainians use to describe the fascism of some Russians.
St James School, London
Jeremy Sinclair, chairman of Governors writes:
As soon as we heard of a Ukrainian girl arriving with her mother in Kensington, London, we arranged for them both to come to St James to meet Sarah Labram our Senior School Head. She was offered a place in the Senior Girls School, starting immediately. She was given her uniform, PE kit and an IT device. Another girl has applied and been accepted starting this week. Our plan is to offer Ukrainian children places in classes where we have gaps, in all three schools (Prep, Senior Boys and Senior Girls).
We do hope the children will enjoy their time with us. We see it being good for our children to see St James opening its heart and door, welcoming those in need.