Celebrating Ukrainian refugees in London on Ukraine Independence day

Waltham Forest Town Hall pictured at night on Ukraine Independence Day 2022. The Town Hall is bathed in yellow and blue lights, the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
Published: 24 August 2023
Filed under: Communications

To mark Ukrainian Independence Day on Thursday 24 August we spoke to Ukrainians staying with host families in Waltham Forest.

Shokha Tatiana

“Each of the Ukrainians who came to Great Britain after the start of the war has his own story. But all these stories begin in the same way - with a sense of terrible injustice.

“Because war is when you spend the evening with your family in your cosy home thinking about plans for tomorrow, and at dawn, you wake up to explosions and howling sirens. In one moment, you realize that your city and your life are being destroyed.

“Our family was lucky to find shelter in Great Britain. From the beginning of our stay here, Waltham Forest Council made sure we felt safe. All issues related to our stay here were resolved quickly and professionally.

“Our sponsors are people who cause deep respect and sincere admiration. Chris and Lauren, as well as their incredible little son, Casper, are sincere and kind. I think it's because they are happy and want to share their happiness with other people. It is obvious that it is very difficult to accept in your home strangers from another country with a different culture and habits. But there is nothing artificial or theatrical about the support of our sponsoring family. They never mistrusted us. I really hope that they are also comfortable with us.

“We are very happy to be here now. Although it is not at all easy to adapt in another country, especially in a state of constant stress. Thanks to the support of the Council, we have everything we need for a peaceful life. But we are Ukrainians. Therefore, we really hope for a quick return to peaceful life in our Ukraine. London is the most beautiful place in the world. Therefore, when our dream of victory comes true and we return home, we will miss him very much.”

Olesia Yhutova

Hello, everyone!

“My name is Olesia Yahutova, and today I want to express my admiration and immense gratitude to the people who have helped me greatly in my new life in England. My little child and I had to flee from our hometown, from our home, leaving behind our entire lives and loved ones. My city, Irpin, is 80 per cent destroyed, my house was damaged. I had never been to England before, and I didn't know many important things about life in this country; I didn't know that there would be many difficulties. I am very grateful to God that at this stage, I met people like Suhir and Natalja from Waltham Forest Council.

“Suhir, you are an incredibly sensitive, kind, and responsible person. Once I needed help and I sent a message to Suhir at 4am. She responded immediately. By 9am she was by my side and helped me solve my problems. She is always available and does more than I could ever ask for.

“Natalja, my daughter and I call her our fairy. We are delighted with every visit, and her assistance in all matters is colossal. She has taught me a lot, explained many things, and helped me in many ways. I don't feel like I'm just their client, I feel the support and attention of a friend. That's important. I understand how difficult it is for you and how many people like me you have to help. It's hard work, but you handle it 300 per cent. Being alone with a child without friends and family is very difficult, but thanks to you, I feel even more secure. That's important!

“Special thanks to my sponsors, Mark and Susan. You are wonderful people, thank you for providing me with a roof over my head, warmth, and comfort in your home for the past 10 months.”

Tatiana Kukarina

“After our arrival to London in April 2022, me and my daughter lived in our sponsor's house in Waltham Forest. A couple of days later Suhir from Waltham Forest Council wrote an email to our sponsor saying that she was going to visit his house to welcome me and my daughter and bring gift cards for £400. We met with Suhir and were impressed by how the council took care of Ukrainians. She asked our sponsor if we had everything for life and how well we got along with each other, then checked if we had a separate comfortable room at his house. She gave me her contact details and asked me to contact her if there were any problems.

“After two weeks, a lady from the council delivered a box to us. My daughter and I were so touched and surprised when we unpacked the box. There was a small tablet with an online library and learning apps, lots of pencils, markers, notebooks, toys, a few books in Ukrainian and English, and many other useful items for a child. I was touched and overwhelmed by this gift and the attention that the council gave us.

“On Christmas Eve, Natalja and a gentleman delivered a Christmas gift for my daughter. It was one more moment to be touched and grateful for their attention and care. During the year Natalja invited me to several job fairs and every time she was very supportive and provided lots of information to improve my job search.

“Our sponsor, Andrea Piantino, is an Italian living in London for 14 years. We were pen pals for 2.5 years with him and met only last April. We had very good and friendly relations from the beginning. He was very friendly with my daughter - they like to go shopping, gardening, cooking, watching and playing football together. We didn’t have any conflict situations, all issues were discussed in a polite and friendly way.

“In April 2023 Natalja came to us with good news. They found a two-bedroom flat for us in the Wood Street Station area that was under refurbishment. We were happy to hear that we will have our house in close proximity to the tube and just 15 min by bus to the school. When the flat was ready, we came to see it with Natalja and Suhir, then signed the contract and moved in in May. Natalja and Suhir also negotiated with Salvation Army to help us with basic furniture - they gave us a table and chairs, two cabinets with drawers, a carpet, two sets of bed linings, two beds with mattresses and even a fridge. I could not believe that it was happening to us. We were so grateful for all the help of these incredible women and all the people who helped us in that difficult moment. Without Waltham Forest Council’s support, we would have become homeless.

“I am so grateful to all the teams of Waltham Forest Council for their efforts, time, dedication, support and affection, for their incredible work and for sharing my positive experience with friends living in other boroughs.”

Our best wishes to all Ukrainian people living in Waltham Forest marking Ukraine Independence Day. 

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