Tetiana and Tina were both driven from their homes in Kyiv by the constant bombing. Their stories of escaping Ukraine with their children are harrowing, and they suffer from ongoing anxiety and PTSD. They’re the lucky ones though – they had savings to fund their escape and both received assistance. They’re now living in Fulham which they love, and have access to resources funded by the H&F Ukraine Appeal.
Tetiana knew the war has started at 5am on February 24 when the door was blown off her flat. The bombs kept coming and she didn’t know where to go. There was no sleep for 10 days as the bombardment continued, but eventually a group of 35 friends and neighbours, including nine children and a pregnant woman – set off for the Romanian border in seven cars.
Tina decided to leave Kyiv on March 6 when she realised her children, Yan and Zlata, could identify whether artillery was Ukrainian or Russian. They’d been living in the freezing, unheated basement of their home. ‘We had to sleep in our coats,’ she says. “It was a terrible time.”
Tina and Tetiana are incredibly grateful for their warm H&F welcome. Tina now has accommodation thanks to the Homes for Ukraine scheme. But they need assistance to get work and start using their skills to become independent and contribute to their new community. This is where the H&F Ukraine Appeal can have a significant impact.
West London Welcome is a partner in the appeal and provides a friendly space in their community centre in Hammersmith where refugees, asylum-seeking people and migrants can meet, get advice, make friends, share information, and get help with housing and applying for benefits. Language is an issue, and WLW is working with the Ukrainian Institute in London to provide English classes and direct refugees to help in getting their professional qualifications recognised.
Smart and friendly, Tetiana is a dentist. Her escape included weeks in living in a shelter, huge queues at borders, and lack of transport. During her journey she found a woman travelling alone on foot with a six-month-old baby. Tetiana helped her and then in turn was helped by a pair of British men who helped her reach the UK and find a home.
Tetiana can’t work as a dentist here yet as she needs accreditation. Dasha, her chess champion daughter, is now settled at school and Tetiana is impatient to find employment. “I just want to find work, and work,” she says. The UK has a dentist shortage and her skills are valuable.
A qualified translator who speaks excellent English, Tina also needs accreditation to get a job. Meanwhile, she’s helping new arrivals. Tina’s architect husband is still in Kyiv with the family dog as men between 18 and 60 must stay behind. The couple have been together since they were 16. “It’s very difficult,” says Tina, who talks to him when she can, but “he’s lost his sense of living”.
Tina considers herself very fortunate to be in a peaceful, safe place. “I’m so grateful to the country,’ she says, ‘and the people who have opened their hearts.”
More about the H&F Ukraine Appeal
The H&F Ukraine Appeal is supported by H&F Giving, West London Welcome and the Hammersmith & Fulham Council. So far the Appeal has raised £24,000, which has helped refugees like Tina and Tetiana to regain some sense of stability by providing community support, practical items, and help with legal advice, classes or learning English.
The borough recognises that the Ukraine invasion has caused a humanitarian crisis and Hammersmith & Fulham welcomes refugees. Your donation can help traumatised people access what they need to rebuild their lives.
Ukrainian Support Fund
H&F Giving and Hammersmith & Fulham Council have also launched the Ukrainian Support Fund, which is awarding grants to community organisations that support Ukrainian refugees living in the local community. The funding has been raised via community and corporation donations and will support a wide range of local services, cultural activities and events. At this point we’ve awarded £7,000 to a variety of local groups supporting refugees.