A West Wight councillor has welcomed two Ukrainian mothers and their children into his home as the Island opens up to more and more refugees.
Chris Jarman, who represents Totland and Colwell, and is also a Totland parish councillor, took in Oksana and her 12-year-old daughter, Vika, and Yuliia and her 15-year-old son, Rosty, a couple of weeks ago. They finally made it to the West Wight after weeks of form-filling and an exhausting six-day train trip across Europe.
Now they are settling in to a new life in Totland, having been introduced to friends and neighbours at a garden party and taking part in Sunday’s Walk the Wight.
Chris said: “It originally started when I got in touch with some old Ukrainian work contacts and, through them, we were able to speak to some Ukrainians who were desperate to leave the fighting.
“We had some video calls with Oskana and Vika, who were hiding in their basements to escape the bombardment, and we started the process of getting them over here. It was a long ordeal as they travelled through Poland, Berlin and Cologne to get to Brussels for the Eurostar, but they are here safe and sound now.
“I have worked quickly over the last couple of weeks to get them into Brookside Health Centre so they have an NHS number, bank accounts, UK mobiles and bicycles so they can get about; there’s so much to do.
“They have also been helped by Victoria Dunford from MAD-Aid in East Cowes as well as receiving free membership at the West Wight Sports and Community Centre.
“Now Oskana, who was an English teacher at home, and Vika are signing on at the IW College to improve their English while their children are attending Christ the King College.
“The two mothers are now looking for jobs; they are very industrious and keen to work and contribute something to the Island.
“More and more Ukrainians are coming over here for safety. I think we have 50 here already and they are talking to their families back home saying how welcoming the Islanders have been to them and they are surrounded by kind, loving, generous people.
“But, eventually, they will return home to their husbands and families. No male between 16-70 can leave the country unless there are exceptional circumstances.”