Torbay continues to support the people of Ukraine as the world marks Ukraine Independence Day today.

It’s exactly six months since Russia’s invasion, and 31 years since Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

As the country continues to fight for its freedom from Russia, we are maintaining our support for Ukrainians in the Bay.

The seafront lights have been changed to blue and yellow – the colours of the Ukraine flag – until Friday.

We've welcomed 153 refugees under the Homes for Ukraine scheme thanks to the generosity of 67 host sponsors. This includes 60 under 18-year-olds.

More than 600 people expressed an interest in hosting families and we continue to work with them.

Until recently, we held weekly drop-in sessions at the Town Hall for guests on the scheme. This was an opportunity for staff to process their payments, offer help and support accessing education and healthcare and signposting for assistance with work, benefits and community groups.

Staff also offered support to those arriving under the Ukraine Family scheme and the Ukraine Extension scheme.

Arrivals under the Homes for Ukraine scheme are now offered appointments with staff to process payments.

We put together welcome packs for guests, which contained information about services and support available in Torbay and, together with the Torbay Community Development Trust, sends out a regular newsletter to guests.

We've also helped Ukrainians by:

  • Accessing discounted leisure and sports venues via the Torbay Leisure card
  • Increasing the eligibility for our Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme to include Ukrainian children
  • Working with local providers to ensure access to primary healthcare
  • Providing trauma-informed courses for hosts to help them support guests who may have experienced distressing events
  • Working with local schools to ensure Ukrainian children can access education
  • Providing safeguarding training to groups to help them with their support provision.
  • Providing funding for school uniforms and looking to contract a provider for free English courses.

Councillor Steve Darling, Leader of Torbay Council, said: “We are showing our solidarity with the people of Ukraine on their Independence Day, which must surely be a day of mixed emotions for them.

“Our thoughts go out to those who have lost loved ones in the current conflict and those still living in Ukraine.

“The people of Torbay have been extremely generous and welcoming towards our Ukrainian guests, who have suffered incredibly challenging and traumatic experiences in the last six months.

Councillor Darren Cowell, Deputy Leader of Torbay Council, said: “We have a long tradition of welcoming people to Torbay, and it’s been great to see the fantastic swell of support from individuals and groups alike pulling together to provide help where it’s needed most.

“We continue to work closely with faith and voluntary and community groups who are supporting people on the ground.”

Olha Kravchenko is one of the Ukrainians who has settled in Torbay since leaving Kyiv at the end of April. She is an architecture graduate and now works in admin.

She said: “It was my second time in the UK but this experience was different than the first time. This time I had a two-day journey to get here rather than three hours.

“Everybody here has been really helpful and nice. Torbay itself is beautiful. I’m charmed by its nature. It’s so different from Ukraine. I also love the architecture over here. There seem to be Gothic churches on every corner.

“My parents and grandparents are still in Ukraine. They are safe enough but it’s a huge tragedy.”

Steve Hutchins and his wife Kasia are hosts who have opened their Torquay home to two Ukrainian sisters.

He said: “We were both very touched by the terrible plight of people out there. 

“We have the time and space in our home, I am retired and my wife speaks many languages so we registered for the scheme knowing that we could help in some small way.

“It had seemed that many of the people who came over here to the UK wanted to be in the big cities or near people they knew.

“However, the two girls who are staying with us are from Odessa and wanted to be by the sea. 

“They are an absolute joy in every way and are part of our family now. They are now going to be part of our family forever!”

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