Welcoming Ukrainians to Islington
A year on from the start of the war in Ukraine, we reflect on how Islington opened its doors to refugees
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine one year ago, the people of Islington have opened their homes and hearts to those desperately seeking refuge and safety. Islington has a long and proud history of welcoming refugees and migrants in need. We are so delighted to see so many Ukrainian refugees settling into life here in our borough, and thankful for those people in Islington who threw open their doors during this crisis.
Islington has welcomed around 400 Ukrainians since February 2022, with 140 Islington residents now hosting more than 200 Ukrainian refugees. Local Islington schools have welcomed nearly 100 pupils. Since arriving, some have moved to other parts of the UK, and some have decided to return to Ukraine.
We caught up with Natalia, one of the officers who helps settle Ukrainians into the borough, and who can speak to refugees in both Ukrainian and Russian.
It’s heart-breaking to see people who have nowhere to return to as their area is under occupation – to see separated families, children who have not seen their dad for nearly a year, elderly people arriving with tears in their eyes, waiting for the war to end so they can go back home. Yet nobody complains. Their resilience amazes me. They say, ‘we have to endure and go through this to survive. The war will end, and we will re-build our Ukraine.’
They hope for a better future and are very grateful to the UK government and British public who, as one Ukrainian guest said, ‘opened their hearts and homes for us’.
I feel privileged to be part of the Homes for Scheme and be able to help my countrymen and women in such a difficult time. I can sincerely say that this is the most rewarding role in my entire life.
Working in partnership
Islington Council works in partnership with Health Prom, a local charity, who run regular events on topics like employment advice, benefits, English language lessons, and life in the UK, as well as more social activities.
Vladimir and Alina, from Mauripol, told us “We learnt English with HealthProm. Now I am a volunteer myself, and teach Taekwondo for Ukrainian children and adults, who also left their homes. We love being in Islington very much and we are very grateful to the kind people who we met.”
Igor fled his home in Dnepr and arrived on the Homes for Ukraine scheme, now runs Health Prom’s Art class. Igor said “The hosting family is very special and agreed to host me for another year, which is very kind. I felt close to those people as they are creative as myself and we found a lot in common.” Thank you, Igor!
Igor leading art class
Read our interview with Pavlo and Anna, a Ukrainian refugee and Islingtonian host, to learn more about their experience, and how Pavlo has adapted to life in the UK.
Islington Libraries have supported new arrivals by purchasing a new collection of books in Ukrainian. The books include a collection of fiction books for adults and a number of children’s picture books. They will be adding more titles over the coming months. Find out more on library webpages.