6th July 2022 | Lieutenancy News

Homes for Ukraine – Perspective by Deputy Lieutenants Bill & Bridget Biddell

Bill & Bridget Biddell have opened their home in Hampton to a Ukrainian Family

Time has moved on, and the complications and frustrations of completing and obtaining visas for families fleeing from Ukraine has been subsumed by the realities of caring and helping for our new guests.

Farnham Homes for Ukrainians, Seale Ukrainians or even Hampton Ukrainian WhatsApp groups remain invaluable resources – bringing in amazingly caring people across the community to help with a huge variety of needs.

The arrival at Portsmouth harbour on a warm sunny Saturday afternoon of Granny, two mums, seven children and a small dog, Alon, is one of those moments which I think will stay with us forever. An outpouring of emotion, relying on facial expression and physical emotion of hugs and hand shaking and at this stage a very inadequate use of Google translate!

The journey home was challenging in trying to ascertain who was who, what will our home seem like, what will be needed and are the family tired and hungry, what do we do first? But the worries were not needed – you could feel the palpable relief of arrival, of a home and safety.

We are now two months in, and having two families at Hampton, one in the house and one in a farm cottage has been an experience way beyond what we had imagined. Beyond in so many ways; admiration for the incredible families – their resilience, their thoughtfulness, their kindness and most of all their determination. Confirmation of amazing family, friends and community who have individually done so much to help, and without which I do not know how we could have got this far.

There is so much needed. Practicalities come to mind first. The families have arrived with nothing – they have lost family, homes, finance, opportunity, education, medical support, careers, jobs and to some extent, their identity. All these need to be worked on but it is not so easy to start from scratch in a country with a different language and script and with the trauma and tragedy that surrounds. At the same time there is an urgency to progress all these matters but it takes time, expectations have to be managed and without sharing this huge task with family and friends, new and old it would be impossible.

So to the future – where will we be by mid-November, six months from arrival? This is an impossible question, our families would like to be home in Ukraine but whether that is realistic we do not know. Much of the emergency housing provided by sponsors will not be suitable or available and there will be challenging needs to be met by the Borough councils who hold responsibility for housing. The Boroughs and County Council have already had a big part to play, with additional responsibilities placed on to them, and as with doctors, dentists, schools ,churches and parishes the extra mile that individuals within these organisations have gone to help has been tremendous and invaluable.

We started by mentioning about the value of community WhatsApp groups for providing invaluable support and communication, we want to re-emphasise that without the kind hearts, good will, energy and determination of so many individuals we would have struggled. Our families amaze us and the future for them is uncertain, but we feel sure that the humanity shown so far will continue.

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