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‘I do not want the world getting used to this war’

24 February 2023

Diocese of Portsmouth

Kateryna Hluhan, the Revd Dr Jenny Gaffin, and Anna Borodulina, outside the vicarage in Hayling Island

Kateryna Hluhan, the Revd Dr Jenny Gaffin, and Anna Borodulina, outside the vicarage in Hayling Island

THE Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s, Hayling Island, the Revd Dr Jenny Gaffin, has welcomed four Ukrainians — two mothers and their young children — to stay in the vicarage, as the diocese of Portsmouth seeks to encourage more residents to open their doors to refugees.

Dr Gaffin’s grandparents had fled Hungary as refugees and had made a life in the UK. This had encouraged her to offer her home, she said; and her hospitality has been well received by her guests.

Anna Borodulina and her five-year-old son, Leonid, spent ten months in a hotel in Bulgaria after fleeing Kharkiv. While in Bulgaria, she met Kateryna Hluhan and her daughter, Nelya, who is seven, who are originally from Odesa.

The two women and their children were matched with Dr Gaffin through the dioceses’ scheme, and have been living on Hayling Island, just to the east of Portsmouth, since December (News, 8 April 2022).

After providing homes for 51 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion last year, the diocese is now seeking hosts for a further 100. Those interested can find out more through a dedicated page on the dioceses’ website.

The diocese employs a refugee co-ordinator, who matches refugees to potential hosts and helps to support them through the process.

“Hayling Island is beautiful, and people have been very welcoming,” Ms Hluhan said. “There has been no problem with school, although in Ukraine you don’t start school until you are six. The children are learning English very well. There are also a few Ukrainians living in Hayling Island; so we’ve met others.

“We are very grateful to Jenny, who has been very kind to us, and introduced us to different customs at Christmas,” Ms Hluhan said. “So many people bought us Christmas presents: I have never seen so many around a tree.”

Ms Borodulina recalled the start of the war, when the family did not leave the house for 11 days, such was the ferocity of the bombardment.

“When a shell landed near our house, Leonid became very frightened. We thought, the next time, the shell would hit our house, and we’d die. I didn’t sleep much the night before we left. It was scary in our house, but it felt even scarier to leave, because I thought the road would be dangerous,” she said.

“I have left my mother and father, my sister, and her husband and children in Kharkiv. They didn’t want to leave their homes and travel, but they have no light, no water. They are coping only because they have got used to the war. It is insanely hard, and we want to return to Ukraine.”

Further west, in Devon, a Ukrainian refugee who came to the county through the diocese of Exeter’s support scheme has shared her thoughts on the first anniversary of the war.

Victoriia Klimashevska, who is 21 and living with a host family in Exeter, wrote: “With the help of the Diocese of Exeter, I have moved to England under the Ukraine Scheme and now live with the sponsors who have become my British family over the past four months.”

Reflecting on the conflict, Ms Klimashevska wrote: “I do not want the world getting used to this war. Yes, it is far from you, and you can get tired of it, but please do not get used to our pain. Tolerating war, not wanting to hear about it, means forgetting universal human values.”

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