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Ukraine, a warm welcome in Epsom: Two Residents.

Our situation meant we were able to help a family in urgent need. Community support and our guests’ response have made the arrangement work well for everyone.”

A heartening account of a local family’s kindness to people displaced by war. The writers wished to remain anonymous to protect the identity of their guests.

Our delightful mother and son guests are from Kharkiv, only 20 miles from the Russian border.

Their feelings and experiences must surely mirror those of so many other Ukrainians since the fateful 24 February invasion. But these are deeply personal matters which, even over time, they may not choose to air with us. We totally understand and respect their reservations which the Epsom Refugee Network made fully clear to us in our early meetings.

The Network has provided us with outstanding support both before and after the arrival of our guests.

Our guests have shared in outline their disturbing story of leaving their home and country. Rapid decisions were made, a long car journey undertaken, and travel made through three other countries before meeting us at Heathrow on 6 May.

How we worked together to make it happen

We are an international family; all our three children have married people not from the UK. They are from South Africa, Poland and Belarus, and all now live within an hour’s drive from Epsom.

We have not yet downsized, so once the Homes for Ukraine Scheme was announced, we decided to offer space in our home for Ukrainians.

How did we come to find such lovely people? It’s a longish story, so let’s just say through a friend of a friend. We feel disappointed for those many people who have also offered their homes under the Scheme but are still waiting to be paired with guests from Ukraine – utterly frustrating.

With our support the mother completed visa applications within 24 hours of that process being opened as part of Homes for Ukraine. After waiting for a week or so, we approached Chris Grayling for his help. Pleasingly he was able to assist, but it was still frustrating that our guests had to wait nearly 4 weeks for formal approval.

Credit too to Epsom & Ewell Borough Council who were supportive and efficient in promptly carrying out responsibilities required in connection with refugees.

Adjusting to UK life

A number of factors have proved of huge benefit in helping our guests acclimatise to UK life.

  • The mother has previously visited the UK (and USA) several times on business trips; indeed she is still working online for her Ukrainian employer, and being paid in Ukraine.
  • Her English is good, and she is very capable in dealing with UK administrative matters.
  • Modern technology allows our guests to find their own way around. They have already had days out in London and visited friends in Milton Keynes, without any help from us.
  • Extensive conversations in Russian with our daughter-in-law from Belarus
  • Our young dog and young cat acquired last year; our guests love them and help us look after them
  • The son enjoys playing chess matches against us – no language barrier there.

Early days but a very positive omen

A momentous event occurred exactly one month after arrival: the 12 year old’s first day in Year 7 at Epsom & Ewell High School where he will be receiving additional English classes.

The day went well and he returned from school a very happy lad.

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