Some refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine say that Nottingham has given them a warm welcome and support in the months since Russia’s invasion.
At least 1,700 refugees have arrived in Nottinghamshire since February of last year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Nottingham has been acting as a “hub” for refugees, providing access to mental health support, education and housing support from Grade-II listed Clawson Lodge off Mansfield Road.
Petro Tyminskyj, a committee member at the centre, says his cousin has been working in a hospital in the central city of Dnipro, which has been at the centre of plans for a major counter-offensive from Ukrainian forces.
However Russian troops were forced to withdraw from the south-western Kherson region in November last year, following a Ukrainian counter-offensive which pushed Putin’s forces back.
The region remains partially controlled by Russian forces, but reports suggest future counter-offensives are being planned.
Mr Tyminskyj said:
“She works in a hospital where lots of wounded and injured people come in, not just soldiers but civilians.”
“There is a lot of caring to do for those because of the consequences of the war.”
He added many people who have moved to Nottingham say the welcoming nature of residents and its natural beauty has helped remind them of their home.
“A lot of them love the city, think it is a beautiful city, very green, and say it reminds them of home,” he said.
“In terms of support, this centre is a focal point for them to come. We don’t have all the answers but we give them assistance with benefits or schooling or NHS.
“We act as a hub, we have contacts with various agencies, the council, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and we can signpost them.
“We also support them with interpretation. We have supported them in all of that.”
Nottinghamshire County Council’s chairman, Cllr Roger Jackson (Con), has helped raise just under £30,000 for the centre to help it in its efforts to support those fleeing the war.
Donations had come in from his hosting of events across Nottinghamshire, including a lunch event at Newark Showground which raised £8,000.
The final total of £27,000 was handed over to the centre on Wednesday, May 10.
David Dowbenko, a committee member who also has relatives living in Ukraine, says the money will help keep the ageing centre running.
Clawson Lodge was designed by famed city architect Watson Fothergill, and therefore requires careful maintenance and considerate upkeep.
Its location in leafy Carrington and unique architecture helps provide a homely and warming welcome to those fleeing war in Ukraine.
Mr Dowbenko says the centre has recently had an influx in need for its services amid the ongoing war.
Before the war the centre’s school had 15 students a week, and this has since risen to 80.
“We have a Grade-II listed building that is always falling to bits, so we have high maintenance and high running costs, so we really value the contribution,” he said.
“That goes towards all those mundane things like heating and lighting.
“We have been really busy over the past year. We have been signposting things like mental health support for displaced people from Ukraine, helping with clothing, transport, and furniture and helping to find places to live while here in Nottinghamshire.
“I have a cousin who is in his mid-20s, newly married and lives in a town called Ivano-Frankivsk in the west of Ukraine. That is relatively a long way from the east where a lot of the fighting is, but he is still affected by it.
“He told me he went out one morning and there was a load of debris on the road, and it was part of a missile casing, so even when they are remote from what most people perceive to be the fighting, that is affecting all of them.”
Speaking of why he chose to help raise money for the centre in Nottingham, Cllr Jackson added:
“As my start of chairmanship, I have to choose a cause or a charity I would like to support throughout the year, and as the war has just recently started, to me it was a no-brainer to support the refugees coming in and out of Nottinghamshire.”