On February 24, 2022, millions of Ukrainian lives changed forever. A Russian invasion began.
The invasion has been the cause of the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two with an estimated 12 million Ukrainians leaving their country to try and find a safer home for themselves and their families. As of October 2022, figures show that 134,200 refugees out of that 12 million had settled in the UK due to the family visa scheme that the UK set up in order to help.
The scheme involved any Ukrainian refugee with immediate or extended family in the UK to enter and settle. However, the Government was criticised for this and in response, set up the Homes for Ukraine scheme which allows any Ukrainian refugee, with or without UK based family, to live and work in the UK for up to three years with a person/family who have put themselves forward to host.
While living in the UK, refugees can gain access to schools and healthcare and both refugees and hosts are vetted before the process is complete. A host will be paid £350 a month to take in a Ukrainian refugee, or family, and the applications are still open online to put yourself forward and to sponsor a refugee to receive their UK visa.
In April of last year, 180 homes in North Yorkshire were already signed up to host a refugee or refugee family. In Richmondshire alone there are over 100 Ukrainian refugees being hosted by UK families
Many charities and local groups have set up events, language classes and meet and greets across the county to try to build bonds between hosts and the refugees and to help them keep their minds off the war that is still ensuing in their home country.
Roman Pronyszyn is currently volunteering for Richmondshire Refugee Support Group (RRSG). With his Ukrainian background and fluency in the language, Roman joined the group in February last year to help organise and run events for the hosts and refugees in the area.
He said: “Our events help hosts to understand the cultural backgrounds of the refugees living with them and to help them bond and build a community.”
Roman’s father came from Ukraine to the UK as a displaced person in 1948. He settled in Manchester as the city had a big Ukrainian community. There he met Roman’s mother, who came from an Irish background, and they welcomed Roman into the world. Roman has had several family trips back to the Ukraine in his lifetime to visit his father’s siblings and was encouraged to learn the language and participate in Ukrainian traditions from a young age.
The RRSG host all sorts of events such as English second language sessions on Thursday afternoons at Richmond Town Hall, and a monthly get together at Richmond Catholic church hall which tends to fall on the third Saturday of every month. And the latest event was none other than a Christmas party of which 70-80 people attended.
The event fell on January 7 as this is when Christmas is usually celebrated in the Ukraine. The event itself was made up of 50% Ukrainians and 50% of their hosts and out of those figures, there were around 30 children from babes in arms to teenagers. Santa Claus did a surprise visit to the children and gave them each a present and a magician was hired for entertainment.
Roman said: “The event was very successful. We were keen to give the refugees something to take their minds off the war. Both the Mayor and Baroness Harris attended, and they seemed to enjoy it.”
These events wouldn’t have been possible however without the generous donations the group have received since the start of the war. North Yorkshire County Council and the charity Land Aid both gave grants to fund the English lessons for the refugees and events such as the Christmas party can go ahead with donations from local people. The RRSG are taking it one step further too with a new campaign to provide generators to the Ukraine under the slogan, “Power for Ukraine.” A JustGiving page has been set up for this scheme and you can donate at
If you want to donate or join the RRSG you can find them at their Facebook page, Richmondshire Ukrainian support group or contact Roman through firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’re interested in hosting a refugee you can register your interest here at Homes for Ukraine: record your interest – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The local refugee community and their supporters have launched a campaign to buy generators for families in Ukraine affected by power cuts because of the war.
For more information or to donate, visit www.justgiving.com/Power-for-Ukraine