TWO Ukrainian refugees, now living in the diocese of Portsmouth, aim to repay the kindness of their hosts by inviting them to their home in Ukraine when the war is over.
Olha Mazer and her daughter Dasha Makovetska, were welcomed in to the UK by Andrew and Judy Walker, as part of a diocesan project to find hosts for refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. Families in the diocese have opened their homes to 51 Ukrainian refugees so far, and the aim is to recruit a further 50 hosts between February and Easter.
Dasha said: “Being here has helped us to realise how kind people are. I can’t even put into words what that has meant. When I see people flying the Ukrainian flag to support us, that can make me cry. And our host family has really become like our actual family.”
Olha, and 17-year-old Dasha, have been living with the Walkers for the past six months. Dasha arrived in England after spending two months living in the midst of war.
“Those two months were difficult,” Dasha said. “There were a lot of alerts at night, which was awful, as it made it difficult to sleep. Once we had met Judy online, I bought a ticket and joined my mother in Poland, and then we travelled from there. My English is better than my Polish; so I thought it would be better to be at school in England.”
Mr Walker said: “I remember meeting these two people at Luton Airport, who we’d never met before, with their whole lives in one-and-a-half suitcases, and driving them back here late at night. It was truly humbling, and the way that they’ve embraced everything has been phenomenal.”
Dasha was offered a free place at Portsmouth Grammar School, where she is now taking A levels, and has secured a place to study psychology in Leeds. Olha was also given a place learning English at Language Specialists International in Portsmouth. She worked as an accountant and store manager in Lviv, and has now found a job as a carer.
Both mother and daughter say that they would like to return home when they can. Dasha’s sister remains in Ukraine, and her uncle is in the Ukrainian army.
“When you realise that it has been a year since the war started, that does feel awful,” Dasha said. “You can’t imagine your country being at war for a year. But, when the war is over, we will definitely invite Judy and Andrew to come to our home in Ukraine.”