Local volunteers, Ukrainian families and their sponsors came together for the first time on Sunday, July 10, in efforts to build a support group and community for St Albans’ new Ukrainian residents.
Alexandra Tretiakova was one of those who took a leading role in organising the event. Alexandra, who has Ukrainian and Russian heritage, first offered assistance to refugees in the form of free English lessons.
Alexandra spoke to St Albans News: “Most of the people who come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme are professionals with great education and experience, they are all hardworking and very eager to learn.
“However, their biggest problem is their lack of English. We started to run courses for them with the help of LinguaPlay. St Albans school and the SS Alban and Stephan Catholic Church kindly offered us premises.”
Alexandra teamed up with Rita Keenan, who hosted the get together at her premises, Street Café, on Catherine St. They originally thought they might get 20 people to come to their first coordinated community meeting. The final turnout was closer to 100.
Alexandra said: “It was so heart-warming [to see] the Ukrainians who fled from bombs and missiles [made] to feel welcome, not to feel alone and lost in this strange country!
“They all want to go back to their beloved homes. But they can’t. For some of them there is nowhere to return, their cities are destroyed or occupied.
Ukrainian families with small children, teenagers and elderly people were given the opportunity to connect, speak their own language, and ask questions about jobs, healthcare, schools and education, social life, travel, housing, ways of doing this in general.”
Street Café owner Rita, together with her husband, are sponsoring a Ukrainian family themselves. The government scheme Homes for Ukraine provides £350 a month per household, regardless of how many are staying there. However, after six months the government will cease to provide any remuneration.
With the time ticking for Ukrainian families to set their affairs in order, Rita said: “There are so many mothers with young children, often with very basic English language skills. How can they be expected to get a place within six months? It’s unrealistic.”
“Going forward we’re looking to get small businesses involved. We’re on the lookout for a suitable premises to host further events. The next one will focus on plans for when the six month sponsorship scheme comes to an end, with the hope that local estate agents will be in attendance to help guide the refugees through the next stages.”
If you have any queries or questions, you can reach Alexandra at email@example.com