Six months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to UN figures, some 12 million people have fled their homes. Seven million are internally displaced and over five million have left for other countries.
Recent government statistics show that more than 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK to escape the bloodshed.
Newly-arrived Ukrainians face considerable challenges to settle outside their homeland and need support to access services, find accommodation and integrate into the community.
The UK already has a significant Ukrainian community who are helping those settling in Britain.
A ‘Welcome Centre’ has been set up in London by the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family in partnership with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.
Based in Weighhouse Street in central London, the site of the Eparchy’s cathedral, the Centre is a single point of contact for essential information for arrival, settling and long-term living in the UK.
Its director, Andriy Marchenko, explains the initiative:
“Our centre aims to support Ukrainians as they arrive in the United Kingdom. They need to settle, they need to get all their documentation ready, they have to send their children to schools – the majority of those who are coming are mothers with children.
“They need to find proper accommodation, they need social support, they need to find jobs, they need practical help to start life anew – even if it is for a little while.”
Bishop Kenneth Novakowski, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop for the Holy Family of London, describes the centre as ‘true community outreach’:
“Here in the UK, through the work of so many people, we are providing a place that is safe allowing people to keep their dignity… It’s a place of welcome for those fleeing and also for those who are sponsoring people who have opened up their homes and their hearts. It’s a place of welcome where we work closely together with other non-government agencies and governmental agencies to provide information, counselling and even community for those who are fleeing.”
The Welcome Centre also has a fully operational website that provides useful information for those arriving or those looking to support them.