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Homes for Ukraine - Zoya's story
Homes for Ukraine - Zoya's story

Over the past six months, hundreds of people fleeing Ukraine have begun a new chapter of their lives in Warwickshire via the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Since the scheme started more than 500 Warwickshire residents have offered their homes and opened their hearts to people in need.

Zoya Chechulina is one of the Ukrainian refugees. She came to Warwickshire June 2022 with two of her children; her son Svyatoslav, 13 years old and her 16 year-old daughter Sofia. They are the Ukrainian guests of Caroline and John from Henley-in-Arden who welcomed them under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Sharing her story, Zoya said: “As the war in Ukraine started, we had to make the difficult decision to leave our home, to secure a safe place for our younger children. My husband Viktor and my 20 years old son Dima, had to stay in Kyiv. My husband is in the military, and my son had to stay due to being of military age.

“My good friend and former colleague, Caroline, has been supportive since the war started. When the Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched by the UK government, I contacted Caroline and John to ask whether they would be happy to become our sponsors. They both agreed and I was grateful and incredibly happy!

“I still remember the warm welcome that John and Caroline gave us; They had decorated their home with Ukrainian flags, they gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and they got some lovely presents for my children. Moreover, they had prepared some lovely cards for all of us!

“The process of the application was quite easy, clear, and quick. I filled in the online forms and indicated Caroline as our sponsor. Caroline also had actions and steps to follow on her side. We got confirmation letters that we can travel to the UK very quickly - within a week - and on 15 of June we arrived in Birmingham where John and Caroline came to pick us up.

“I am a procurement professional, so my goal was to find a procurement job. After applying for several positions, one of my applications was successful, and I got a job in the UK. The next priority for us, was to find schools for my children and to make their daily life normal. We applied to several schools through Warwickshire County Council admissions services, and we also reached out to schools directly. Sofia was accepted and very warmly welcomed at Alcester Grammar school. For Svyat it took a bit longer, but we got place in St. Benedict’s Catholic school nearby. The school principal arranged a meet - up day with Ukrainian parents which was a great event where I had the chance to meet other Ukrainian mothers and start building relationships. I recognise that this is a big change for my children and sometimes they do struggle. I am positive though; they will get there step by step. It is great that we have good advice, unconditional empathy and support from John and Caroline.

“The county is very nice! It is very calm, green and we have settled into our daily routine with work and studies. We do some sport activities outside and we are enjoying using facilities at the local leisure centre.

“I want to thank UK for such amazing and powerful support to Ukraine on all levels - starting with the government, local authority, and all people we meet every day. We are blessed with Caroline and John who became our family here.”

Caroline and John, essentially applied for the Homes for Ukraine scheme because they wanted to help people who were in a difficult and life-threatening situation. Both are retired but busy in their local community getting involved in voluntary charitable work in areas that interest and concern them.

John commented: “We had signed on to the scheme to explore the detail before we became aware of Zoya’s situation. We knew that there would be some dislocation of our lives but nothing to compare with issues many Ukrainians were facing. Before they arrived, we spoke with Zoya, Svyat and Sofia on a Zoom call and walked through the house and garden so they could get a feel of where they were coming to. We eventually picked them up from Birmingham Airport brought them home to Henley in Arden.

“Zoya and I (John) are keen cooks interested in cuisine, so we have shared the cooking duties and at least the main meal most days. We have enjoyed Ukrainian food and we have introduced them to both traditional British food and the wider cuisine.

“In many ways the first period of their stay has been a bit of a manic project covering a range of things including, biometric passes, GP registration, getting the kids into schools, Zoya starting her new job, sorting car insurance, looking at car options around leasing, starting to look at housing, finding Ukrainian produce. These have all moved forward positively with both kids now having school places and Zoya picking up a leased car recently. We have helped where we can but have been enormously impressed at how Zoya has motored through things and resolved hurdles and issues with persistence and calm determination.

“Whilst I would not underestimate how the family feel about leaving their home, their husband/father, and son/brothers and all their friends and way of life behind. They seem incredibly positive about life and their new challenges. We have had to make some small adjustments in our routines but overall have taken enormous positives from getting to know them learning about Ukraine and its culture. We have also had a positive reaction to our sponsorship from family, friends and anyone meeting their situations including lots of local businesses and clubs and of course Warwickshire County Council. We will I am sure remain close once they move on.”

Leader of Warwickshire County Council, Councillor Izzi Seccombe, added:

“It is such an amazing achievement that hundreds of people across the county have provided a home to families and individuals from Ukraine under the national scheme and we continue to seek more hosts. It is wonderful to see how the families that we have welcomed have stayed within Warwickshire and thrived making valuable contributions to their local communities and towards making Warwickshire the best it can be. I hope more people will come forward to find out more and lend any support they can.”

The Homes for Ukraine scheme offers a route to Ukrainians who want to come to the UK and who have someone as a sponsor willing to provide them with a home. Each lead sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme is entitled to an optional 'thank you' payment of £350 per month for up to 12 months as long as the guests remain in their accommodation. This payment will be tax free and should not affect the sponsor's entitlement to benefits or council tax status.

Anyone able to offer a safe home to people fleeing Ukraine can enquire about becoming a sponsor as part of the scheme. Find more information at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/ukraine  

Published: 27th October 2022

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