Wanstead resident Eileen Flinter documents her experience of sponsoring two Ukrainian refugees, and says she has nothing but admiration for the fortitude and pragmatism her guests showed
My Ukrainian adventure began on 24 February this year. I saw a Facebook post from a lady who had been my cleaner in London for a while but had returned home to her family in Ukraine about four years earlier. I contacted her to offer my sympathy for the current situation. A few days later, she replied: “I hope it will end soon. The war is very scary, every night we pray to see a new day in the morning.”
I should explain that although our messages were in English, Nataliya (not her real name) has limited English, and I have no Ukrainian, so Google Translate did the work!
On 13 March, she contacted me to say she had heard about a scheme for Ukrainians ‘arriving in Poland in connection with the armed Russian aggression’ to come to the UK. She asked if it was true.
The UK government was refining and developing a scheme in stages, and information was gradually being posted on the Homes for Ukraine website. I forwarded relevant points to Nataliya, although her replies were infrequent due to interruptions to the Wi-Fi reception. It became clear a sponsor would be needed, and I persuaded myself I could and should do this. The form was in English, and each page had to be completed before accessing the next one. So, I had to message with a request for her passport details, street address, place of birth… on and on, wait for a reply, and then carefully type the Ukrainian words, check the Ukrainian words and move on to the next page. Somewhere along the way, I also agreed to sponsor Nataliya’s sister. Nataliya’s daughter had moved to Poland to stay with her grandmother, and, of course, her partner is not allowed to leave Ukraine. The final page listed documents to be included: proof you were in Ukraine on 1 January 2022, a bank statement, a mortgage statement and more. These are, of course, the very things a person fleeing for their life would pack! In exasperation, I wrote a terse note in the comments that these papers were not to hand. Completing the forms took over two stress-filled weeks.
In all, Nataliya and I exchanged 163 messages between 24 February and 7 May, when I unexpectedly received a photo from Rzeszow airport showing a flight to Luton on the departures board. Nataliya had contacted an office cleaning agency in London before leaving Poland and the sisters started working immediately! Every morning they left the house before six. Apart from a £200 payment – which all arrivals received – they are financially self-sufficient. They have now rented accommodation in Leyton and, as they left, presented me with a beautiful bunch of yellow roses and a large box of chocolates as a thank you for sponsoring them. I know they will not stay in London a day longer than necessary. Their lives are in Ukraine.
For more information on Homes for Ukraine, visit wnstd.com/homesukraine