Iryna's Story Shines Bright on Ukrainian Independence Day

Date Released - 24/08/2023

A family of refugees who fled the Ukraine war over a year ago have shared their heartwarming story of adapting to life in a new community. Iryna, 36, her mother, sister and best friend arrived in Tameside 17 months ago and are preparing to celebrate their second Ukrainian Independence Day living with their sponsors in Hyde.

Iryna's story shows the profound impact of this support. Despite the cultural and language challenges, Iryna’s family, including her mother Tatiana, 66, sister, Svitlana, 45, and best friend Alisa, 37, have been pillars of strength for each other while they adapted to live in a new country.

The family’s favourite places in Tameside include Hyde Park and the garden of their sponsors, Serena and Lee, have become symbols of solace and belonging. Alisa, in particular, is keen to visit the local artisan markets as the family adapts and embraces their new culture.

The family remains steadfast in their pride for Ukraine and its soldiers, as the sudden eruption of conflict transformed ordinary citizens into defenders of the nation. Iryna's family and friend holds immense pride for their president's tireless commitment to Ukraine's victory.  Iryna said: “We are very grateful to all friends of Ukraine for their help and support; without the help of friends and strangers, sometimes it is simply impossible for anyone to survive.”

For Ukrainian Independence Day, Iryna will join compatriots at the Ashton Ukrainian Centre to celebrate and pay tribute to fallen defenders and mark the country’s effort in the war. This event acts as a small yet significant bridge between their homeland and their new Tameside home.

Serena and husband Lee, who opened their home in Hyde to Iryna's family and friend, found their spontaneous decision to help has evolved into a 17-month journey from strangers to close friends.

Serena reflects on their experience saying: "We were horrified by the war and felt we had the ability to help. Our ladies are most definitely going to celebrate Independence Day, with other Ukrainians at Ashton Ukrainian Centre. We feel it's their celebration."

Tameside has rallied behind Ukrainian refugees, with 44 sponsors currently offering accommodation for 54 people. A further 43 Ukrainians under the scheme have successfully transitioned to secure housing within the borough, with the help of Tameside Council’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme, sponsors and retired estate agent, Stephen Gooderson.

The Homes for Ukraine Scheme provides support which encompasses services such as guidance applying for benefits, employment advice, language lessons, registering for healthcare, educational placements, and more.

Cllr Ged Cooney, Tameside Council Executive Leader, said: "Tameside prides itself on being a welcoming and compassionate community. The outpouring of support for Ukrainian refugees is a testament to our shared values of unity and empathy. The story of Iryna and her family showcases the impact that collective effort can have in transforming lives and fostering a sense of belonging."

Iryna adds: "Adapting to life in a new country hasn't been without its challenges, but the kindness of locals and the sense of community have made all the difference. We are truly grateful for the support we've received."