An oak tree has been planted outside Glenfield’s County Hall, to mark one year on since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The special tree planting ceremony took place yesterday (Tuesday, February 21), with representatives from Leicestershire County Council present, alongside members of Ukrainian Club, Kalyna, plus Ukrainian guests and their sponsors.
Last February changed the lives of millions of Ukrainians following the military assault by Russia. In response, the council pulled together with partner authorities and agencies in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland as part of the Government’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
Over the last year, the council’s support has included a dedicated Homes for Ukraine scheme and a welcome point for guests arriving at East Midlands Airport.
A travel grant for guests, as well as trauma support and help to secure school places for children arriving in the UK, was already made available.
The council also supported sponsors by increasing the payment for hosts during the winter from £350 to £500.
Established rapidly following the invasion to support arriving guests, the Homes for Ukraine team will continue its hard work with both guests and sponsors to ensure continued help and support to everyone playing such an important part of the scheme.
More than 500 households committed their support and over the last 12 months welcomed almost 1,000 guests from Ukraine, including 350 children. In collaboration with the council’s Homes for Ukraine Team and the Leicester Ukraine Club “Kalyna,” guests have settled in their local area, making an enormously positive impact on their new communities.
Guests have helped to support other Ukrainians arriving in the UK, volunteering in their local communities and finding employment, some of whom now work on the Homes for Ukraine scheme, making a valuable contribution to the initiative.
Glenfield-based Ruth Hughes and her husband Michael welcomed Maria, Roman and their four-year old son Sergi into their home from December, after working with a charity. Ruth said: “We were so pleased to welcome such a lovely family into our home. We always eat dinner together and take it in turns to cook and we’re excited to be part of their journey here in the UK.
“We also enjoy having lots of laughs when Google Translate hasn’t quite gone to plan!
“Sergi is already picking up lots of English and plays with my grandchildren, who are picking up Ukranian themselves. Hosting Maria, Roman and Sergi has enriched our lives and are so proud to have this wonderful family living with us.”
Councillor leader, Nick Rushton, said: “We have stood in solidarity with Ukrainians since last year and worked with our partners in Leicester, as well as the districts to make sure we were ready to welcome guests to the county.
“An incredible amount of hard work has been undertaken over the last year and we couldn’t be prouder of the warm, welcoming environment met by the hundreds of Ukrainian guests staying with our brilliant sponsors in Leicestershire.
“This tree planting ceremony is the culmination of a year’s worth of extraordinary efforts by those involved and to be able to welcome a host and sponsor to this event helps to make it even more special.
“The sponsors’ generosity in opening their homes, and the hugely positive impact our Ukrainian guests have has in Leicestershire, is testament to the communities we have across the county and I want to thank everyone who has helped over the last year.”
The Leicester Ukrainian Club will be holding a vigil at Leicester’s Town Hall Square this Friday (24 February) from 5.30pm to 8pm to mark ‘365 Days of Defiance’.
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