To mark one year since the invasion of Ukraine by Russian, we spoke to those who’ve settled in our borough, and those who’ve generously opened their homes and hearts.
Anna and her daughter Charlotte welcomed Ukrainian refugee Pavlo into their home in Islington in October 2022. We sat down with them to hear more about their experience
Forced to flee his hometown Odessa at just 16, Pavlo has had to contend with all the normal challenges of moving to a new country, along with the uncertainties and difficulties that come with being a refugee.
Despite these hurdles, Pavlo has settled into life in the UK well since arriving in October. He’s attending ESOL lessons at City and Islington College and aspires to register for a college course or an apprenticeship.
Pavlo noted how big the culture shock has been for him, but also said “I can be myself here… there are so many opportunities that I want to explore”.
More than anything, though, what has helped Pavlo settle into life in Islington has been his love of football. Initially, Pavlo was happy playing in his local park, but it wasn’t long until he expressed a desire to join an organised team. Anna, who has been hosting Pavlo in her home, took him to LIFT Youth Hub where Pavlo was thrilled to join their team.
Of course, we can’t talk about football in Islington without mentioning Arsenal Pavlo shared that, as an Arsenal fan, he was thrilled to be able to see the Emirates Stadium in person and that he hopes to go to a match soon to watch his favourite players, Martin Ødegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Before we parted ways, Anna wanted to stress how much she has been struck by the generosity of the Islington community in supporting Pavlo. She drew attention to the provision and support the family have been provided by the council (including Pavlo’s fantastic social worker), LIFT and Pavlo’s new football team, but she also wanted to emphasise the kindness people responded with upon hearing about Pavlo’s story. Pavlo’s story is a great example of how Islington services and the Islington community have come together to support a young person in their time of need. We are thankful to hosts like Anna and we are continually inspired by the resilience and strength of the Ukrainian people we have welcomed into Islington.
For any young family, every year brings big changes, but it’s difficult to overstate just how much has changed for Olena Skobalo and her two young children, Karina and Danylo.
In a year where so much has changed, Karina and Danylo have found some continuity in continuing to go to school. Both children are learning in Islington – Danylo has taken a keen interest in history and is preparing for his GCSEs, and Karina is particularly enjoying geography and art. In fact, Karina put her artistic skills to great use by selling Christmas cards to raise money for the Ukrainian Scouts, who are fundraising for the Ukrainian army.
Olena said the family have spent a lot of time exploring London on foot and that she’s particularly enjoyed how “in London, some places that are very old sit right next to modern buildings” – she mentioned her favourite example of this contrast was the area around St Paul’s, which all the family love.
Karina highlighted the variety of things to do in London and how much she’s enjoyed seeking out new places, with Camden Town being a favourite destination of hers. The family are keen to explore further outside London too, with trips to York and Scotland in the pipeline.
Olena was pleased to talk about how safe she felt in the UK and that it’s been good to see Danylo and Karina both settle into school so well. Like true Londoners, though, Olena did state her disbelief at the cost of rent in London!
The family wanted to put on record how grateful they’ve been for the help they’ve received since arriving in the UK and how thankful they were to hosts, people in the Islington community, and the council for helping them throughout this period of upheaval. Before we said our goodbyes, Danylo said he wanted to use this one-year marker to remind people that the war is far from over and that the people from Ukraine will continue to need our help.
For information about becoming a host, visit the council’s website.
Karina and Danylo at March for Ukraine