Published: Friday, 17 June 2022

Interviewer of the Year: Winner

Reading Level: 1

Seeking refuge

Marlie Jay, Bedales Prep

Winner, Interviewer of the Year

How would you feel, leaving your home, potentially the only place you have ever known, to go into a new country with a new language and new people?  

Over the world people are taking in Ukrainian refugees because on 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, bombing innocent people and their homes. Many people living there were forced to leave the country and even their own families behind, becoming refugees.  

I was fortunate to speak with Jenny* who is one of the hosts. I asked her about what this experience was like for her and the Ukrainian families she is offering space for.  

Jenny found people were coming to her asking if her school would be able to provide places. One lady asking said she was particularly ‘worried about two families of three, who badly wanted to stay together, but very few hosts offered accommodation to that many people’. Once she got added to a WhatsApp group with them and started exchanging information, she got “a really good feeling about them”. So, she invited them to stay.  Our government had created an organisation called ‘Homes for Ukraine’, which would make it possible for the Ukrainians moving in. She had a very frustrating three weeks, during which she applied for all the visas but heard nothing from their guests. This was particularly  worrying as they were still in Ukraine, and spending much time in bomb shelters. Jenny then wrote to her local MP, Flick Drummond, asking her to chase the visas and she did.  

The guests arrived on Saturday 9th April 2022; the only issue was that they do not speak English. One mother Nadiya* has two sons, the other family has Bodhana* and her boys whose father/husband is still fighting in Ukraine, and they really miss him.  

I asked Jenny what the future might be for the refugees and she ‘Honestly doesn’t know’. For now, she is focused on ge[ng them an education and jobs, and then they will have  options and choices to make. They have the right to stay with her for three years, but as any person would, they want to go back to their home, when it returns to being safe. They are also worried about the damage that will be caused in the town they lived in.  

I wanted to find out a li]le bit about what it had been like for the boys. One of them told me that, “In the first days I was very afraid of the sounds of planes [flying over the house]  because of the events in Ukraine but now I am calm [because he is safe]’. He also said, “We live near a tank factory and a rocket was fired at this factory and the sounds were very loud,  my dad was on the street then and even saw the rocket”.  

I just hope more and more people start playing their part and helping, the people who have lost almost everything.  

If you have space to spare, then offer it, to the people in the middle of a war. 

*Names changed to protect identity.