Opening hearts and doors

A man with a red top on is sat in a black chair in between two vibrant pieces of artwork, which hang from the wall and on a stand - he is looking towards the camera sat in a studio

To mark the two-year milestone since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, we speak to Ukrainians living in Islington whose lives have been unimaginably changed by the war

Ihor’s story 

Ihor came to the UK during the war in Ukraine in April 2022. Back home, Ihor is a famous artist and curator, and his work has been showcased in numerous galleries throughout Ukraine. Like many Ukrainians, Ihor had to rebuild his life and find a community in a new city. This journey led him to Islington, where he was offered a safe place to stay.  

Refugee resettlement officers working at Islington Council referred Ihor to HealthProm, which provided free English classes and weekly drop-in sessions as part of its Ukrainian Refugee Project and Ihor found it incredibly helpful.  

At HealthProm, the Ukrainian-speaking staff helped Ihor address several challenges, including how to reapply for a lost residence permit, understand the UK housing and benefits system and even with booking plane and train tickets. He not only found support and a community, but a route to continue his life’s passion for art.  

Quickly, Ihor began leading HealthProm’s art therapy classes for displaced Ukrainians in Islington, which was set up to support people’s wellbeing. Ihor is now a paid coordinator, hosting weekly art sessions. Just as he was in Ukraine, Ihor is now famous in the HealthProm community, and his classes are popular among Ukrainians in Islington. With HealthProm’s help, he not only uses his skills, but has become part of the community settling into life in Islington. Also, Ihor is receiving invaluable aid in crafting his CV and acquiring a computer to help him into work. 

Ihor’s passion for visual art and expressing creativity shines through not only in his art, but through his dedication to other displaced Ukrainians in his classes. Through their artwork, they can express a shared vision of hope and resilience as they seek refuge in Islington. 

Taina’s story

Forced to flee their home back in 2022, Taina and her daughter came to Islington under the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. Since living in Islington, Taina has been overwhelmed by the support from Islington Council and voluntary organisations like HealthProm and Voluntary Action Islington (VAI). And it is not only organisations that have offered a helping hand – residents have been central in helping her and her daughter transition to life in the UK and they have even lived with an Islington family for the past year. 

After arriving in the UK, Taina got straight to work trying to find employment but, due to language difficulties, found this quite challenging. To overcome this, she now studies at Islington Adult Community Learning (IACL) and ICE English School London.  

Taina has always been determined to get involved in the local community and found help at HealthProm and VAI – a local Islington charity working with Ukrainian refugees. The friendly Ukrainian-speaking staff offered her a warm welcome, helping her write a CV and encouraging her to explore volunteering to further improve her English. 

With the help of a Ukrainian employment adviser at HealthProm, Taina registered with VAI and is now working in a volunteer role. “I am grateful to everyone who helped me in this,” says Taina. “I help other people find volunteering opportunities, and contribute to the life of the community that accepted us and opened the doors to their homes and hearts.” Taina continues to express her gratitude to the generosity and welcoming nature of the local community in Islington, which has truly made Islington a sanctuary for all. 

Supporting refugees

HealthProm launched the Ukrainian Refugee Project to support displaced Ukrainians arriving in the borough and worked side-by-side with refugees and Islington Council to design a set of activities to help support wellbeing and integration. Since February 2022, HealthProm has supported more than 110 Islington families, 50 people received housing and employment advice, roughly 12 young Ukrainians attend the weekly youth club, more than 60 people attend weekly sports activities and 15 people regularly attend mental health support session.  

You can visit the Islington Council website to find out more about how they are supporting refugees and making Islington a safe home for everyone.

Islington Council website


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