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A mum of two who sponsored a Ukrainian mother and her son fleeing war has described the experience as ‘like having a new extended family’.
Nikki signed up for the Homes for Ukraine scheme when it launched and was paired with Kateryna, a mother of a nine-year-old boy, who is the same age as Nikki’s son.
When the war started Kateryna witnessed Russian bombs falling near her flat and was forced to shelter her son and six-month-old nephew in a bathtub for a week before managing to leave.
She leaves behind her husband, who is still fighting with the Ukraine Armed Forces.
In April Nikki and her husband drove to France to pick up Kateryna in an emotional meet up, after Kateryna and her son’s traumatic journey out of Ukraine finally ended.
Since then, the two families have spent their time getting to know each other, with Kateryna’s son starting at the same school as Nikki’s and the two women celebrating Ukrainian Mother’s Day and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Nikki said: “It’s something that I felt I had to do. Knowing that children were there suffering and missing their childhood – it broke my heart.
“Then knowing that we had a spare room that was big enough and children that would play with them – I knew it was something I had to do.
“When we finally met, we were crying tears of joy and sadness. Now we’re like sisters. My son and daughter have gained a new brother.”
Kateryna is now a cook in a restaurant working five days a week.
She said: “I didn’t believe it was true when the war started. Then I saw a rocket and very big explosion, it was very scary, and my son cried.
“I have a sister; she has a six-month-old baby. The baby and my son slept in the bathroom for one week before we left. We have many emotions – they’re not good
“Now I am here I am very happy, because my son has a new family. Every day I say: ‘thank you God for this family and for England’, because now my son has a good friend and I have a new sister.”
Cllr Karen Rampton, Portfolio Holder for People and Homes, said: “Thank you sincerely to everyone who has registered to be a sponsor.
“You are doing such an incredible and vital job and we all thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping those in need.
“The council is working hard to support all our Ukrainian guests and their sponsors.
“If you live in the BCP area and can help in any way with job offers, accommodation or other offers of support, please get in touch.
"Our teams can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bcpcouncil.gov.uk/helpforukraine."
The council is now working with over 250 host households offering accommodation to around 600 Ukrainian guests, some of whom are adults, families and children.
If sponsors or their guests have any queries or issues, please call 01202 123987, email email@example.com or visit bcpcouncil.gov.uk/helpforukraine
Welcome booklets for sponsors and their guests are available here.
To watch a video of Kateryna and Nikki talking about their experience please click here.