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Dorset marks second year of Ukrainian invasion

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Voluntary and community sector organisations gathered in Dorchester earlier this week to mark the second anniversary of the Russian invasion and show their support for Ukrainian refugees living in Dorset.

The event was organised and hosted by #HelpAndKindness, in collaboration with Dorset Council’s Ukraine Response team and Dorset Together.

Maryna Dovbysh, one of the organisers from HelpAndKindness, and herself a refugee, said: “I am very grateful to the amazing people who have done so much to support Ukrainian refugees during the last two years.   We are lucky that we became a part of friendly local community and feel safe here.

“Of course, I wish this war had never started, but understanding how we deal with the challenges is very important for future.

“I am very fortunate that HelpAndKindness offered me an opportunity to be involved in working with communities and that together, we have achieved so much.”

Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine 2 years ago, (24 Feb 2022) Dorset has welcomed more than 1,000 Ukrainian refugees.  But sadly, as the Russian missile attacks on the country and civilians continue, for many refugees, returning to Ukraine continues to be an impossible dream.

The event gave an opportunity to reflect on support and challenges for Ukrainians living in Dorset and reaffirm that Dorset continues to stand with Ukraine.

Guests included representatives from Dorset Council, Citizens Advice, Volunteer Centre Dorset, as well as Race Equality Council volunteers and representatives from Ukraine community groups from Shaftesbury, Weymouth, Dorchester, Bridport, Sherborne and Purbeck.

Speakers included Jon Sloper, HelpAndKindness, Maryna Dovbysh, HelpAndKindness, Holly Loxton, Dorset Council Ukraine Response Team, Thomas Hensher, Citizens Advice Refugee Caseworker and Sarah Cambell, Ukrainian Refugee Employment co-ordinator, as well as Stuart Twiss from Shaftesbury Refugee Group

Councillor Laura Beddow, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Culture, Communities and Customer Services, said: “As we mark the second anniversary of this conflict, we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine, and reaffirm our commitment to those fleeing the conflict in their homeland.

“Thank you Help and Kindness for organising this event and for reminding us of the power of coming together and making a positive impact.”

Jon Sloper, CEO at HelpAndKindness, said:  “We were really pleased to be able to host this event and bring together so many people who have been involved in the ‘Homes For Ukraine’ support in Dorset.

“Sharing food and stories and reflecting on the highs and lows of the past two years together was a wonderful experience. We will continue to offer our support during these uncertain times and link up the goodwill and help on offer in our communities with those that need it.”

 700 Ukrainian refugees are currently living in Dorset, and part of a thriving Ukrainian community with a number of Ukrainian businesses, craft and food markets as well as regular large-scale Ukrainian events.

For many of the refugees, the challenges they faced on arriving in UK have shifted from immediate need for accommodation, navigating the benefit system to more long-term solutions such as stable employment and self-employment, pursuing training and qualifications as well as more permanent housing options.  

However, there is still a need for more hosts and landlords who have spare rooms or properties to support Ukrainians.  If you feel able to offer a room, annex or property, please contact Dorset Council’s Ukraine Response Team on 01305 221000 or register online Providing accommodation - refugee services - Dorset Council.

A recent survey showed that 94 per cent of hosts have found it to be a very rewarding experience, and 93 per cent of Ukrainians have had a very positive experience of settling in Dorset.

Holly Loxton, Dorset Council Ukraine Response Team, said: “What a heartwarming event. The atmosphere was filled with solidarity as people came together to celebrate the resilience and strength of Ukrainians, the generosity and kindness of the community and all that has been achieved over the past two years.

“It was truly inspiring to hear from those who have contributed their time, homes, resources, and talents to make Dorset’s Ukraine Response a success. “