Boldon family say they have made 'friends for life' by hosting Ukrainian mum and children as South Tyneside marks World Refugee Day

A family hosting a mother and her children from Ukraine have told of the great support South Tyneside has shown to those in need as the borough marks World Refugee Day.

South Tyneside is celebrating the strength and courage of those forced to flee their home countries to escape conflict or persecution as part of the international display of solidarity on June 20.

South Shields Town Hall will be lit up in blue to signal South Tyneside Council’s support for refugees across the globe and to raise awareness and understanding of their plight.

The focus of this year’s World Refugee Day is that everyone has the right to seek safety.

South Tyneside Councillor Ruth Berkley meets Ukrainian refugees Larysa Hutsuliak and her children David and Eva, along with their host Victoria Hayden.

The Hayden family from Boldon are among those around the world giving others in need a safe home.

Victoria, her husband, Ben, and children Thomas, six, and four-year-old Clara recently became hosts for refugees from Ukraine, and now share their home with Larysa and her two children David and Eva.

Victoria, who is a teacher, said: “We had just moved home and were delighted to have a spare bedroom which we planned to turn into an office.

"However, when we saw the images on the news of the war in Ukraine, we realised the extra space we had gained could be put to much better use.

“Getting the family to the UK was not plain sailing but now they are here they have settled surprisingly quickly.

"We were able to get both children places at school and nursery. Both schools have been absolutely wonderful in supporting the children and they have already started picking up lots of the English language.”

Victoria added: “The situation in Ukraine is dire, but if there is to be one positive outcome from something so awful, it is that we have made friends for life. Larysa, David and Eva are part of our family and are treated as such. Our family and friends have been incredibly supportive and love dropping by on an evening to see how we are all getting on.

“Larysa has been overwhelmed with the support she has received from people within South Tyneside and beyond. She feels blessed to live in such a beautiful part of our country and is looking forward to a time when she will be able to welcome us into Ukraine as guests to see her beautiful homeland.”

Volunteers from South Tyneside Asylum Seekers and Refugees Church Help (STARCH) and South Tyneside Council have also helped the family to settle and meet other refugees from Ukraine.

They say a coffee morning held last week for refugees and their hosts was a great success.

The council has also provided space at 16 Barrington Street for STARCH where volunteers have been able to collect, sort and distribute donated items to help refugees settle into their new lives.

Leaders say South Tyneside has a ‘long and enviable reputation’ for welcoming those in need from across the globe.

They say the council’s Asylum and Migrant Team works closely with the voluntary sector and provides ongoing support to those coming into the borough to ensure a successful transition and integration.

Councillor Ruth Berkley, Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Equalities, said: “While refugees need our support every day, it is vital that we mark World Refugee Day as it helps focus global attention on the plight of those fleeing conflict or persecution.

“It is an opportunity for us to recognise their resilience in re-building their lives. I would like to put on record my personal thanks to their hosts and our wonderful army of volunteers who do so much to help them settle into our beautiful borough.”

Anyone with enquiries relating to refugees can contact the Asylum & Migrant Service at [email protected]