"We found we had a lot in common" says Warwickshire resident who welcomed a Ukrainian refugee into her home - The Leamington Observer

"We found we had a lot in common" says Warwickshire resident who welcomed a Ukrainian refugee into her home

OVER the past nine months, 600 residents across Warwickshire have opened their doors to Ukrainian refugees.

And one such resident is Sonja, who has taken in refugee Yevhenia and her two daughters Sofiia and Vike under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

They fled their hometown Kharkiv in April 2022 and since coming to stay with Sonja, they have built up a great relationship and found they have a lot in common.

Sonja said: “Just after the war started, my daughter’s British maths tutor, who was living in Zaporizhya, had to escape when the Russians arrived outside his apartment building.

“He had to leave everything behind and get out of Ukraine very quickly, so I had direct information from him about what was happening in Ukraine.

“In March, when the UK Government announced that UK residents could offer accommodation, I applied as soon as the scheme went live. Within a week I met Yevheniia through a friend and we made contact via video call which is when I met the girls and Yevheniia’s husband.

“It was important for me to let them know that she would be safe here and that I was officially registered with the scheme and, also, that they would be coming to a female-only household which was her priority. I must say that, the day I picked the girls up in the UK, I think we all shed a few tears of relief.”

Sonja is delighted with WCC Homes for Ukraine team’s support. She believes that the support from Warwickshire has been great, and they have been always kept up to date.

She continued: “The team has been brilliant, and everything has been smooth sailing from the first home checks and DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks to the current day. I think the fact that they have checked the welfare of the Ukrainian guests, and that they can contact the team directly if needed, is superb.”

Regarding their day-to-day life, Sonja said: “We have a great relationship and have found that we have a lot in common. We have similar outlooks, and both have two girls of similar ages, so it works for us and the girls.

“We have not had any major issues, we eat dinner together every evening, we all chip in with the chores, we go shopping together and we do things as any normal family would. There is a lot of clothes swapping, make-up, hair makeovers and giggling that goes on – lol.

“Yevheniia helps me, and I help her, we make a good team. We talk and communicate openly about everything that is important. We will be friends for life and, when the war is over, I am looking forward to being able to visit her and the rest of her family in a free Ukraine.

“It is important for people to understand that if they are thinking of becoming a sponsor that they will need to help set up and support their guests with everything initially, especially if they do not speak English. You will need to be their voice, advocate, and mentor.

“Sponsors need to help their guests to become independent and slowly move forward, as you would with your adult children. Sponsors also need to understand that they will need to guide their guests and help them navigate UK life. You need to be open and communicative and help your guests make a plan for their short-term future and keep them focused on achieving that goal.

“Doing this is also good for their mental health and gives them something to aim for. Watching my guests flourishing now, from where they started, is extremely rewarding.

“We enjoy having them with us and will miss them when they decide it’s time to move forward on the next step of their UK journey, but we will continue to support each other and will always be here if they need us.”

Yevheniia came to the UK on April 16 starting her journey from Kharkiv. While Yevheniia and her family were waiting for their Visa, they were hiding in a bomb shelter.

Yevheniia said: “We decided with my husband, the best solution for myself and our girls was to leave my country and be safe. We were hiding in a bomb shelter for one month. That was the hardest part for my children and myself.

“For me it was good and a relief to know I had somewhere safe to go. I was looking for a female host and a safe quiet village to live with my children and I found Sonja through a friend. I was lucky because I would not be able to make the application without Sonja’s help. I did not understand the process and only spoke a little English, so it was complicated for me.

“When I first came to the county, I felt welcomed. We had several discussions with Sonja and her girls, after a few days of arriving in the UK. She has helped me with everything I needed to do. Finding doctors, and dentists, understanding and applying for Universal Credit, getting the children to schools, and finally finding a job. We made together a plan, that made our day per day life easier. The Warwickshire team have been extremely helpful, and I know I can contact them if I need help. They have always checked to make sure we are okay.”

With Sonja’s help, Yevheniia managed to find a job, two months after arriving in the UK and placing her girls in local schools.

She said: “I am working now for four months at the local Care Home as a cleaner and this has helped me not only to improve my English since I am speaking to new people every day but also to make new friends.

“My oldest daughter Sofiia is in the sixth form studying A levels and the youngest Vika is in secondary school. They are making friends and settling in very well. I am proud and happy that my children have a normal life and can dream about their future.

“I am very grateful to the people of the UK, Warwickshire and my sponsor for keeping me and my daughters safe and helping me with everything I need to make a life in the UK until I can go back home to Ukraine my husband, family and friends.”

Anyone able to offer a safe home to people fleeing Ukraine can enquire about becoming a sponsor as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Find more information at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/ukraine


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