Ukrainian refugee family issues heartfelt message thanking people of Sheffield for 'welcoming us with open arms'
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Pavlo Romanyuha, his wife , Rimma, 31, and son, Dmytro, 10, fled their home city of Verkhnyodniprovsk, near Dnipro in eastern Ukraine, after the war broke out almost a year ago.
They crossed the border into Poland and stayed in a refugee camp, where they shared a room with 30 others before securing a UK visa.
The family struggled adapting to a new country far away from home, especially as Mrs Romanyuha and Dmytro both spoke little English.
Mrs Romanyuha struggled with loneliness while Dmytro missed his school friends and judo classes.
But nine months on, although the family dream of returning to Ukraine, they have settled into life in the city, where they rent a house with another Ukrainian family.
Pavlo, 41, said: “We are so grateful to the people of Sheffield for the generous hospitality they have shown us.
“We have lost so much in this war, but to have the city welcome us with open arms, and offer my children a place in school, gives me so much hope for the future.”
Mr Romanyuha works as a forklift driver, while his wife is a cleaner. Their son has even developed a taste for baked beans and fish fingers.
The family come together with other people from Ukraine to sing Ukrainian songs and fly the country’s flag. At these meetings they have recorded speeches thanking the people of Sheffield for opening their homes to strangers.
Since the start of the conflict, 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have settled in England, according to the latest UK government figures. Of those, 700 have been sponsored by local families in Sheffield.
While Dmytro, who attends Netherthorpe School, is working hard to prepare for his SAT exams this year, he is also keeping in touch with his life back at home by taking part in online lessons with a teacher in Ukraine, part of a project supported by Theirworld, the global children’s charity founded by Sarah Brown.
The Stay with Ukraine project delivers online lessons on Ukrainian language, literature and history to hundreds of young refugees around the world. The classes enable refugee children like Dmytro to study in their own language and meet other Ukrainian children.
The lessons also help children to cope with trauma and reduce the chances of them falling behind when they return to school back at home.
Lessons are often disrupted by power cuts, which force teachers to conduct the classes on their mobile phones with candles or flashlights.
Schools in Ukraine remain open, but thousands have been bombed by Russian forces, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science.
Sarah Brown, chair of Theirworld, said: “This brutal war has torn children away from everything that gives them safety and security: their family, friends, teachers and school. Arriving in a foreign country - often unable to speak the language - children can be traumatised, bewildered and afraid.
“In times of crisis, how our society treats refugees reflects who we are. I’m delighted that the people of Edinburgh shown such compassion and kindness to refugees like Dmytro and his family who have suffered so much since the start of the conflict.”