Two years on, Wirral families continue to support displaced Ukrainians

Saturday, 24 February, marked the second anniversary of the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In the weeks and months that followed the invasion in 2022, millions of Ukrainian citizens were forced to flee their homeland in search of refuge, with many coming to the UK as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and supported by the sponsorship of ordinary British families.

At the height of the refugee crisis, there were nearly 500 people displaced from the war-torn areas of Ukraine who were living with families in Wirral.

More than half of these people remain in the area today living in independent accommodation and a further 164 people are still supported in the borough in over 100 sponsored properties.

Cllr Jerry Williams, Mayor of Wirral, said, “We are immensely proud of the way so many Wirral families opened up their homes to welcome people fleeing violence from their homes in Ukraine and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone one of them.

“It must have been so difficult for those affected – not only leaving their lives behind, but also moving to a completely different country with all the challenges that brings. That so many feel settled here is a testament to how they have felt looked after by the households they stayed in, the wider community and by public services, including council officers.”

Among the people to flee Ukraine a few months into the war was a young couple – a Russian and a Ukrainian – who knew that to save their relationship, they needed to seek refuge in another country.

26-year-old Natalia from Russia and Serhii, 24 years of age and from Ukraine originally met while visiting England in 2021 and had been living together in Ukraine when the conflict was stepped up. They married and applied together for support from the Homes for Ukraine programme and eventually matched with sponsors in Wirral.

Natalia said, “It was very scary to move into a stranger’s house, especially when we spoke only basic English, but there was no need for us to be afraid. Our sponsors became like our second parents and helped us get off our knees and learn to live again from scratch. Thanks to the programme, we met such wonderful people and we keep in touch to this day.”

Another couple who are still settled in Wirral are Roksolana and Aram. Roksolana explained how the care and support they received from the moment they set foot on UK soil helped them overcome their fear, confusion and upset at being forced to leave their home in Ukraine.

Roksolana said, “In Ukraine, I was a teacher of musical disciplines at a college and my husband is an artist, who is currently prepared to stage his seventh exhibition of his paintings in the UK.

“We felt very cared for and helped by Wirral Council from the first moment they visited us. We have had great support and help every step of the way, with regular meetings with council officers where we and the people who sponsored us could get support and answers to any questions we had.

“When we arrived, we were confused, like children taking their first steps in life – tense, depressed. But we have been given so much support, which makes it possible to integrate into British society and live in peace.

“War is very scary – it takes away everything from you as a person. But Britain has given us the opportunity to live in peace again, to work and to study. We greatly appreciate the support that we have been given.”

Image: Aram and Roksolana

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