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Ukrainian band Teper playing at a party held for Ukrainian refugees at the Southgate ClubUkrainian band Teper playing at a party held for Ukrainian refugees at the Southgate Club

An Enfield church, Rotarians and the Southgate Club have come to the aid of displaced Ukrainians.

Imagine you’ve been forced to flee your home, your country, your culture, your way of life. You have to leave your husband, father, brothers behind, you grab a few valued possessions, put your kids in your car – if you’re lucky enough to have access to one – and set off on a journey to who knows where. You arrive at your destination some days or weeks later only to learn that you need a visa to gain entry. You have to complete all the forms for entry in a language with which you are totally unfamiliar…. But you are admitted eventually. In this new and strange country, you suddenly realise how vulnerable you are. You do not understand what people are saying, you cannot read the information leaflets, you don’t know where to begin.

Fortunately, help is at hand. There are some kind and welcoming people ready and willing to assist. Here in Enfield, the North London Ukrainian Hub has been setup in Enfield Trinity Church and is run by a remarkable woman – Yevgeniya Pozigun – and Rotary clubs in the area have been able to provide English language conversation classes, organise collections of clothing, toiletries, food etc. and offer moral support for those seeking comfort, housing assistance, Universal Credit interviews and so forth. Yevgeniya is Ukrainian and has lived in London for 15 years, so is ideally placed to intercede on behalf of the Ukrainian refugees.

Steve Vincent from Enfield Rotary Club with some of the Ukrainian refugees who he is teaching EnglishSteve Vincent from Enfield Rotary Club with some of the Ukrainian refugees who he is teaching English

Steve Vincent, a member of Enfield Chase Rotary, is a CELTA-qualified English language teacher and has been providing conversation classes three times a week to those who wish to improve their communication skills - these are proving very popular amongst the refugees. Most recently he helped organise a Christmas and New Year “Borscht” party with some of the women, using his local contacts to provide a venue and musicians.

Steve is also one half of the Reprobates, and together with band-mate John he opened the show, followed by a wonderful, authentic Ukrainian band Teper, led by local musician Tetiana Makovei. A special mention for Marek Pospieszalski, chairman of the Southgate Club, who very generously provided the club premises totally free of charge, allowing full access to the club kitchen for heating up the borscht, and managed all the ticketing and PR for the event.

The Reprobates playing at the Borshch party at the Southgate ClubThe Reprobates played the opening set at the Borsht party

Steve has benefited from help provided by other local Rotarians who have supported the classes and have interacted with the refugees individually too. He has witnessed a significant improvement in both language skills and general self-confidence in the (mainly) female refugees, but the one thing that constantly amazes him is their resilience. “I have heard some horrific tales of war from some of these women, and yet here they are learning a foreign language, adapting to our culture, finding schools for their children, applying for jobs and successfully coming to terms with Universal Credit administration. These are truly remarkable people and deserve every possible help I and others can provide”.

The conflict in Ukraine seems unlikely to end any time soon, and so Rotary, and other organisations, will require a long-term commitment from its members to continue to support the refugees, whilst recognising that there are also many refugees in the UK from other countries who also need support.

Слава Україні!

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