One year on: Continuing to support the people of Ukraine (part two)

Around 8 million refugees have left Ukraine and 5.9 million people have been displaced within the country since its invasion in February 2022. And by January 2023, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has risen to 17.7 million. [1]

From fundraising to volunteering, many of our people have offered support to those in need. One year on, we heard from Schroders colleagues Rodrigo and Christopher on their experiences supporting the people of Ukraine. Now Kate and Jeremy, share their candid insights on welcoming Ukrainian families into their homes.

Kate Rogers, Head of Sustainability, Wealth and her husband Adam Cavalier, Portfolio Director are hosting a family from Kyiv.

Kate: Olga, Maksym (10) and Daneliia (4) flew from Poland last August, having travelled by train for a day across the border from their home in Kyiv. Olga left behind her husband, Vitaly, and 20-year-old son, Olexander, who are prohibited from leaving (all men over 18 must stay in Ukraine in case they are needed to fight).

Prior to the Russian invasion they lived a normal, happy life — Vitaly is a mechanic and Olga, a beautician; the children were studying and enjoyed playing with their friends. The invasion changed all that, and after a few months contemplating leaving, Olga decided to look for a host family in the UK, hoping she could give her two youngest children an opportunity to live a relatively normal life away from war.

On a day-to-day basis they’re happily settled into our life and routine - both kids are at the local school and are doing well despite the language challenge. Daneliia has an amazing English accent and Maksym makes friends wherever he goes.

With our help, Olga has navigated endless forms and has received support from the council and secured her British residency permit. She works in the local greengrocer and has improved sales of cabbage by giving out her Borsch recipe! Despite this they miss their family desperately. Vitaly and Olexander live under the constant threat of attack, they have just two hours of electricity a day and struggle to get access to medicine, fuel and fresh food. The children haven’t seen their father or brother for over six months, this is the first time that Olga and Vitaly have been apart in their 20-year marriage.  

Their bravery cannot be underestimated - these people moved their entire life to a country they had never visited and put their trust in absolute strangers to host them. We’ve all adapted to make space for new things in our lives — for us, the Ukrainian food and culture and for them, an entirely new way of living. We feel very lucky to have met them.  

Over the last year our community has been very welcoming and generous, and there was a huge outpouring of love when they first arrived. As they’ve integrated, they’ve become more independent and the support that they need is less practical and more emotional.  

Jeremy Barker, Portfolio Director, hosted a Ukrainian family at home.

Jeremy: This time last year, we met our guests for the first time, a mother and her two young boys (aged 3 and 5). When they arrived, we had places ready at school and nursery for the boys and enjoyed trying each other’s food and learning about each other’s family. What was important to us, was that they also had their own space and that everyone could get away from each other for those times when you just need a break.

Hosting taught us a lot, and we were sad when they returned home earlier than expected. The biggest issue, aside from the struggle to get them here in the first place, was trying to find them a permanent place to live. As a Ukrainian family, even with the mum having several jobs and the ability to pay the monthly income, it was just not possible to find a place for them to rent. Potential landlords just found it too risky to rent to them, even with a guarantor and deposit. Our spare room and my smallest child’s bedroom weren’t a permanent solution. Their father was also desperate to get his family back together.

They returned home the week the Kerch bridge was bombed, and when they were home the power grids and utility companies were targeted. The eldest son was terrified, and with no heating or electricity he ended up with pneumonia. Their situation seems better now though, the family are together again and the children back at school and happy. They even got a kitten after enjoying being with my dogs and cats.

If you’re thinking about hosting, make sure you have space, try to understand each other’s cultures and outlook, but most of all, be open to learning and adapting. Local charity groups on social media were a helpful resource. Your local MP email address will be useful, too. Plus, keep apple pies in the house - our Ukrainian mum became addicted! 

There can be lots of concerns and worries, and we’ve all learnt from the experience. We are still in close touch, and we’ve even been invited to Kyiv. There will always be a home here for them if they need it.

Through Schroders’ emergency response appeal, our people collectively fundraised and donated over £350,000 to charities providing humanitarian aid and support to Ukrainian people, within Ukraine and those displaced in other countries, including the Red Cross and the Ukrainian Crisis Relief Fund.

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