Shropshire Star

Interviews with Ukrainians who found a home in Shropshire after fleeing their war-torn country

The decision to leave your homeland, family friends, even pets, is one hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have had to make since Russia invaded a year ago.

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Daria 23 and Natallia 28 outside the Shrewsbury Community Club

Some have made their way to Shropshire and its borders. And they say they have been welcomed by hosts and the community.

Now many are looking for employment.

Shropshire Supports Refugees CEO: Amanda Jones chats with 23-year-old Kirill

Daria, 23, and Nataliia, 28, arrived in Shropshire from Odessa last year, setting up home with their hosts in Baschurch.

Odessa, a hugely strategic city on the coast was, said Nataliia, simply not safe, blockaded by the Russians.

Daria's sister and mother chose to remain in Ukraine as did Nataliia's family. She also had to leave her dog and cats behind, being cared for by friends.

A talented designer, Daria now works at Theatre Severn and Nataliia has just finished her training at a teaching assistant.

"I was a special needs teacher in Ukraine and did online teaching also. But with very little electricity which meant we often did not have the internet, it was so hard to teach," she said.

While looking for work Natallia is involved in doing craft workshops with the children at the Shrewsbury Community Hub, which has a special weekly drop in morning for Ukrainians run by Shropshire Supports Refugees.

Playing at the Shrewsbury Community Hub are five year old Kyrylo and one year old Margarita

The two are also kept busy raising money for charities in their home country. Before Christmas they held a fundraising event at their host's home by entertaining with Ukrainian music, food and crafts raising more than £600.

Then at the parish church's Christmas Tree Festival they had a stall selling their own art and craft work from cards and decorations to cookbooks, raising £400.

The money raised was split between three different charities, and vetcrew.

She said she loves Shrewsbury.

"It is so pretty, like a picture. I like the river. I love being near water and I miss the sea in Odessa – my friends there send me videos they take of the sea.

"I also like the charity shops you have in UK. They are helping to save the environment. And I like the craft shops."

Vadym only arrived in the UK two weeks ago having finally been able to get his visa.

Pic in Shrewsbury at the Community Hub, where we met with Ukranians for a chat. Activities Co-Ordinator: Olya 26..

It meant a long awaited reunion with his wife, Svitlana and teenage sons, Maxim and Tioma.

They arrived in Shrewsbury last year, to stay with host Bob Harris in Meole Brace.

Vadym says he can not thank their host enough.

"Bob is the most perfect human being there is," he said.

"He had done everything for my family. He has helped fill in forms, helped with things like doctors and dentistry – the best man I have met."

At 47 Vadym, a highly experienced building engineer, who has worked across Europe, knows that he will have to start from the beginning looking for a job.

"I have a lot of experience in construction work but I know here I have to start from the beginning."

Kirill, 23, escaped from Krackov with his parents and has been able to continue his studies online.

He now lives independently in Shrewsbury.

"We have been in Great Britain for eight months," he said.

"The people of Great Britain are very kind. One day I hope to go back to Ukraine. But I will be able to say that I had a good experience in Shrewsbury. I try to speak and use English - I hope to get better."

Olga, 39, travelled to Shropshire with her nine year old son Danil just two months ago.

They had already fled from Kharkir to the west of Ukraine and their home region is still under attack from Russian shelling.

The decision to travel to the UK came as Olga found it simply too stressful in Ukraine.

"We only had lights and power for three hours."

She said while he was beginning to settle Danil was finding life hard in a new county.

"He kept asking to go home to his grandmother"

Having trained as a lawyer in Ukraine Olga was working as an legal investigator for a company.

Now she, like many others, would love to be able to find work.

The Community Hub in Shrewsbury has become a haven for those to fled Ukraine to make their homes in Shropshire.

Regular coffee mornings give Ukrainians the chance to meet up with each other, use the facilities at the hub such as Wifi and access a range of services that are offered by the group, Shropshire Supports Refugees.

Ukrainian speaking staff and volunteers can help with everything from form filling to English lessons and signpost visitors to more specialist help.

Many visitors to the hub have made friends within the group and have accessed training sessions that have led to them getting jobs.

Amanda Jones, chief executive officer for Shropshire Supports Refugees said many people who arrive last year thought they were going to be in the UK for just a few money.

"Marking the first anniversary of the war is a depressing time."