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UKRAINIAN refugees in Melksham and the surrounding area can now meet up at a new social group to be held weekly in the town centre.
The new group, launched last week, will be held every Saturday, 10.30am to 12pm, at ‘that meeting space’ in the Market Place – formerly the ArtHouse Café.
At the event, Ukrainians and their host families can get together over a hot drink and socialise with other families. The group has been set up by GoodNews Church, who manage ‘that meeting space’ – and it is their contribution to the work of the local support group, set up by Melksham man, Stuart Pearce, to help support the refugees arriving in the area and their hosts.
“We wanted to create a space for them in the town where they can meet others who are going through similar experiences,” said John Firth from GoodNews Church. “It’s important that they don’t feel isolated, and have opportunities like this to get out and socialise.”
Around 20 people attended the first meet-up last week. At the event, Olha Markohonenko, an English teacher in Ukraine, told Melksham News, “Everything is really good here. People have been so kind; everyone tries to help; we’ve had clothes for the children, a car to use and help in trying to find work.
“We are so happy to be here but, of course, very worried about things back home.”
Olha’s home is in a small city, Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, close to Crimea. It was one of the first cities occupied by Russian forces back in February. She left with her husband and ten-year-old daughter and five-year-old son.
“We spent two months there after the Russians arrived,” she said. “It was very worrying and we were very afraid. It was dangerous to walk around and conditions were very bad.
“My husband lost his work on the first day; you couldn’t buy any medicine, which was difficult for the old people; and nowhere was safe.
“We applied online to come to England and we were very lucky to find very good sponsors. We had a two-day bus ride to get from home to Georgia and then a flight on to Istanbul before flying to London.
“We’ve left my mother and father and two grandmothers behind; it’s very worrying. They are still there but no place is safe, and they’ve got nowhere else to go.
“Things were very bad and that’s why we decided to try to come to England and bring the children. We wanted to get them to a safe place and give them a safe childhood and not be afraid for them.
“Here, they can play outside and we’re hoping they will be starting school soon.
“It’s very good for us to be here. We’re very lucky to have such good sponsors. They help us every day and make our life as easy as possible and we’ve been really welcomed by everyone.”
The weekly Ukraine social group is held every Saturday at ‘that meeting space’ in the Market Place, 10.30am to 12pm. For more information, call 07389 866714.
For more information about the local support group, visit www.ukraineuk.info; and join the ‘Ukraine support group – Melksham/Corsham/Lacock & Chippenham’ Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/473302704525249