Adrian and Marie Fisher in Durweston have welcomed three generations of one Ukrainian family. Adrian shares how they are settling into life in Dorset.
This spring saw Ukrainian families begin to arrive in large numbers to the UK, fleeing from their war-torn country, and adding a new and unfolding chapter to the history of our county. A family of three – grandmother Liliia is 59, Iryna is 32 and her son Damir is 10 – have been living with us since April. Every day that passes sees new accomplishments, as they establish their lives here in North Dorset.
They are gaining increased mastery of English, making progress at Durweston School and weaving through the byzantine bureaucracy that was never designed with ease of use and swiftness of effective action in mind.
There is the shared support network of a dozen host families and their respective dozen Ukrainian families who manage get-togethers in the district every week. Somehow, nothing really matters compared with packing a bag at an hour’s notice with just three changes of clothes, leaving everything else in your life behind. In response to the Ukrainian crisis, so many people across our villages are stepping up to host
a family, simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Some things have worked out well, such as playing cards together, and trips to Poole Quay, Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast. All are relaxing ways of simply getting to know each other.
Google Translate was brilliant at the start, though now we are encouraging them all to use it less and try to converse in spoken English more. English lessons are also helping so much.
Experiences of war
There are harsh realities in their experiences. Some mothers got out of Ukraine with their children on the day the invasion began, determined that their children should never see or experience atrocities which would scar them mentally for life. They were so wise. Weeks later, women now crossing into Romania are describing their single worst shared reality – the rape of mothers, daughters and even young sons.
They are so traumatised.
It’s no holiday
Our own Ukrainian family announced as soon as they arrived that they were not here for a holiday. They need to work, to earn money and send it back to Ukraine for Liliia’s husband and his brother. Her husband was a manager at a brick factory. The factory has been destroyed, the company ceased to exist, and his job,
income and prospects have vanished. Instead, his skills are put to use organising military logistics. Serving as volunteers, both men receive only €15 a month while the cost of food has doubled (that’s if it is available), and they are eating canned dog food to feed themselves.
Every day that they manage to speak, they know their loved ones are still alive. Our Ukrainian family did not
wish to come to England under such circumstances. They are decent and hard-working people. Like them, we are living each day at a time. That’s all any of us can do.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
1. Support the Blandford Welcome Group (BWG), whose latest initiative is their “Fundraising with Art Event”. See the website: www.blandfordwelcome.group
2. Buy a raffle ticket in the Fundraising with Art Event, with a special exhibition in September when everyone gets to take a piece of art home. Contact Chrissie Anderson on email@example.com, or Marie Fisher on firstname.lastname@example.org
3. As an artist, pledge to create a work of art for the Fundraising with Art Event. Then create it by 15 July 2022. Again, please contact Chrissie Anderson or Marie Fisher.
4. Offer to host a Ukrainian family. See the website: www.ukrainedorset.org
5. Order copies of “Blue and Yellow – Hope for Ukraine” colouring book; to sell through your organisation (minimum batch one carton), to enable free copies to be distributed to Ukrainian refugees in
Eastern Europe. Contact Adrian Fisher on email@example.com
6. Donations are always welcome, to provide more help for refugees.
7. Generosity in kind is also most effective – from a donated kid’s bike or unused computer to smart women’s clothes. Typically each refugee only arrived with one suitcase.