“Everything just keeps getting better”
Since coming to the UK and meeting host Anna, Ukrainian student Sofiya has been able to continue her studies and is hopeful of finding her own flat and her dream job in marketing.
“I left my whole life behind but it was the right decision,” bluntly states Sofiya, a 20-year refugee and university student from Western Ukraine. Sofiya left her home in Ivano-Frankivsk in November 2022. The situation was worsening: Russian missiles were coming often and the electricity and gas problems were growing. Sofiya says she “feared that there wouldn’t be job opportunities in Ukraine” after she got her degree. “I wanted to be independent. I want to help support my parents and I don’t want them to worry.” She took matters into her own hands and applied to the charity RefuAid that operates out of Poland, which then referred her to Refugees at Home.
“It was a terrible situation and I wanted to help”
Meanwhile, over 1,000 miles to the eastaway in Ealing, London, Anne had been following the news coverage of the war. “It was a terrible situation and I wanted to help.” Her two daughters had both left home permanently and she had been renting out rooms. “I was used to having other people around.” She applied through the UK government’s Ukraine for Homes for Ukraine scheme, researched several charities, and was impressed with Refugees at Home.
Since hosting has started,they have lived together, Anne and Sofiya have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about the other’s culture and customs. They live fairly independent lives due to their busy schedules. Anne is a freelance TV producer and Sofiya is not only studying but recently found a job at a nearby organic cafe. They do find time to go for walks and have dinner together 1-2a few times per week. They also enjoyed celebrating Christmas together in December, and Ukrainian Christmas again just a few weeks later.
A different perspective
Anne feels that since meeting Sofiya her perspective on refugees has changed. “I initially thought that I would host someone who lost a home. I quickly realised that war can affect people in many subtle ways – even if they have a roof over their head.” She has considered what it would be like if one of her daughters was a refugee in a foreign country. “I would want them to be somewhere safe and have opportunities.” Fortunately, Anne is now in a position to provide Sofiya with such a safety net as she launches her new life in the UK.
For Sofiya, “everything just keeps getting better. At first I was confused, but now I have a job and I’m finishing my university degree virtually.” She stays connected to her friends and family on a regular basis and looks forward to having her boyfriend join her in the UK. She is looking for her own flat and for a full-time job in marketing. She realiszes that both efforts will take time, but neither she nor Anne are in a hurry. Anne added, “Sofiya is doing really well. She is very proactive.”
Anne has found the hosting experience straightforward and easy: “Refugees at Home has been very good. They have sent their team to the house in advance of Sofiya’s arrival. They also organise evenings to get together and learn from other hosts.”
And, most importantly, “You know that there is help when it is necessary.”