Sheffield cafe Marmadukes launches fundraiser to help Ukrainian orphans, as student tells of fears for family

A Ukrainian student has told how she left her family behind just two weeks before Russia's invasion to continue her studies in Sheffield.

Arina Sydelnikova, from Kyiv, said she had returned from a winter holiday to visit her family four weeks ago, two weeks before Russia’s full-scale attacks began.

The 19-year-old, who is studying biomedical science at the University of Sheffield, will be starting her part-time position at Marmadukes cafe on Cambridge Street tomorrow, Saturday, March 11, and the popular cafe is holding a fundraising event that day.

She said: "Who would have thought that in two weeks, the situation changed so dramatically? When I was there, I couldn't have imagined that war would start. My entire family is there."

Marmadukes on Cambridge Street. Picture Scott Merrylees

She said her immediate family members have left Kyiv and moved to a safer part of the city but some of her relatives live in the outskirts which are surrounded by the Russian army, leaving them with no choice but to stay grounded without food supplies.

Clare Nye, co-owner of Marmadukes with her husband Tim Nye, said proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit Hope and Homes for Children, an organisation dedicated to bringing 100,000 orphans out of Ukraine.

She said the fundraiser is working together with London-based 'Cook for Ukraine' movement which is modelled on 'Cook for Syria' that aims to bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis.

She said: "The money will go directly to Hope and Homes for Children as it is close to our heart because our best friend is their CEO and I've been involved with the charity for sometime now and they work directly with orphanages."

Arina Sydelnikova, 19, said she had just returned from a winter holiday to visit her family four weeks ago in Kyiv, two weeks before Russia's full-scale attacks began.

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Arina: ‘People in Sheffield are just amazing’

The mum-of-four said the fundraiser is a simple British-themed supper club that consists of pie, chips, mushy peas and gravy and a Ukrainian dessert served with custard, and all the staff are donating their time to the event for free.

Clare added: "We are making comfort food and keeping the people through the door, feeding everybody and talking about some of the things that Hope and Homes are going to do with the money."

Edward Maxted, one of Marmadukes' patisserie team members who are donating their time to make the pies.

She said the fundraiser will see two sittings of school dinner from 6pm to 8pm and then 8pm to 10pm. She also does not rule out the possibility of doing a similar event on another day.

And now that all 120 tickets, which cost £25 each, are sold out, she said individuals interested in making a donation to the charity can do so by scanning a QR code in any of their cafes, even while ordering coffee.

Arina said she has been left overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness shown by people in Sheffield to help her home country.

She said: "People in Sheffield and the UK are just amazing. I really appreciate the help which everyone tries to come up with. All of the volunteering, help from people is really indescribable and valuable for all of the Ukrainians.

"Everyone who understands, cares and supports people who are facing a real war are doing a really important thing and I want to say thank you to all. It is really important for me and my country.”

She also hopes that the UK government relaxes its rules in accepting Ukrainian refugees, especially those who have no relevant documents to enter the country.