A Host’s Story

Valerie

Host to a family of 5 from Ukraine: Mom, dad and three girls aged 9, 12 and 14. 

The last twelve months have been a mixture of culture and learning curve for me.

In May 2022 I decided to host a Ukrainian family. I particularly wanted a family because I do very much enjoy children and felt I could offer them something. I wrote to the Ukraine Embassy at the start of the war in Ukraine, offering accommodation. I found my family on Facebook: a mom, dad and three girls.

Firstly, they had to say goodbye to their parents and then travel to the west of Ukraine to cross the border into Poland. It took them 30 hours to cross the border. 

Their parents already had their van packed with all their important belongings in anticipation of the war starting. The departed with in their van 40 minutes after the invasion started. They did not want their children to witness anything. The mom’s parents live in the West, so they were able to stay there before starting the journey to England.  The mom and children flew from Poland, while the father followed over land with his van packed with their important possessions. 

Because they were amongst the first to arrive in England, I do not feel the Government had had time to prepare for all the necessary needs of the displaced families. It was hard during the first week trying to decide what was needed and to go about organising. Finding a school place for the youngest one, aged 9,  was very easy and they made her very welcome. I cannot praise Lindens School enough for the way they have accepted her. She has settled in well, made friends, joined the football team, learnt to swim, joined clubs – for her there are not enough hours in the day to do the things she would like to do. 

The two older girls needed senior school and that was more difficult to arrange. They managed to get in to Streetly School. It is nearby and so they were able to walk. My grandchildren went to this school and I have had an association with it for 30 years, so I thought it would be good for them. They have not enjoyed their experience even though they have received awards for achievements. In addition to attending school here, their Ukrainian lessons have been continuing, which has meant them getting up early each morning to be online to complete the school year.  They have had soooo much homework from their Ukrainian school. 

The bank was quite straight forward to set up – HSBC in Walsall accepted mom and dad and gave them bank accounts immediately. 

Finding a doctor’s surgery and dentist to register with was not easy. The job centre, well…say no more!

Within weeks the parents had both got jobs and although they miss their beloved Ukraine have tried to settle in as best they can. They find our rules difficult to accept – I suppose we would find their rules difficult too. 

I feel it has been easier for the younger child to settle – she has made friends very easily. For the two older girls life has not been so easy, but they both organise themselves in the morning and are always ready for school on time. The same cannot be said for for younger one, but she usually blames me as she says I am the one who is not ready on time!

To conclude, considering what they have had to leave behind and what they are hoping will happen they have tried very hard to accept their situation. It is so difficult for them to decide what is best at the moment and it can change from week to week, depending what happens in their country.
Ukraine was a country I did not know much about, but over the year we have had many discussions on culture and differences, and I feel it has added a richness to my thoughts and ideas. 

Val


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