Supporting Ukrainians in Oxford
After the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces on 24 February 2022, most countries in Europe experienced a flood of Ukrainian refugees. The UK was one of the first countries to welcome the victims of this unjust war. The refugees started to arrive in early May 2022. Children are the greatest victims of any war. They carry the horrors they witness for the rest of their lives and sometimes it is very difficult for them to adjust to a normal life.
At ICN, we oppose wars and defend non-violent struggles under totalitarian regimes. However, in the case of Ukraine, we support Ukrainians defending themselves against their invaders, and stand unified with them.
One of the main activities of ICN is providing English classes for refugees. At the beginning of May 2022, we were asked to provide classes for five Ukrainian students. Although we were not planning to have a summer term, due to the teacher’s prior commitments, we accepted that we would have to have one. We therefore planned to provide six weeks of hybrid English lesson classes, from the end of July to the beginning of September. At the start of June, we had received 16 applications from Ukrainians. Some of those housed in rural areas around Oxford were facing transport difficulties travelling to the venue for our classes. The high bus fares were another factor that inhibited their ability to attend. They were still learning about their new environment and rules and regulations in the UK.
Whilst we were excited to get to know these amazing students and their parents, the challenge for us was that we had to get prepared within a short period of time to teach non-adult? pupils. We had not done this before, and needed to conform with the required compliance regulations, including DBS checks for everyone within the classroom environment.
Venue Change – the outcome
Prior to this, we had already decided to change the location of our classes to a more accessible location. We needed to inform all our stakeholders of the relocation, whilst ensuring that all the teaching tools, equipment, and materials were available. This was an amazing experience for us, as all the parents and the students from this war-torn country were keen to learn, organized themselves, and were very supportive of our work.
It was great to see the children happier and contented as we approached the end of the course in September.
One of the highlights was that one 15-year-old student, Dmytro Chernerskyi, or ‘Dima’, didn’t have much time to spare at our classes. He was working hard to prepare for his entrance exam to the prestigious Purcell School for Young Musicians – which he passed with flying colours. We all congratulated Dima and his family for this great achievement and wish him success in all his life.
Dima’s older sister, Viktoriia, is very active in anti-war and peace-promoting activities. Together with other members of Ukrainian Society, she organised several anti-war protests and coordinated humanitarian aid collection to support people in Ukraine. Several vehicles were sent to Ukraine fully packed with clothing, medicine, first aid kits, military clothing, and other essentials. She also participated in several meetings with senior government officials at 10 Downing Street, including with Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. They discussed possible support, and the creation of a special visa scheme for Ukrainian refugees, which later enabled her mother and Dima to come to the UK.
Most of the Ukrainian mothers have already registered to attend the ICN’s final term of 2022’s English classes. This indicates the determination of this great nation at such a difficult time and their perseverance for learning and trying to overcome adversity. We are sure they will overcome all during these difficult times.