Locals in Dumfries and Galloway rally to support Ukrainian refugees

  • Report by Natasha Potts

A community in Dumfries and Galloway has rallied round to support Ukrainian refugees who've arrived here since the start of the war in their country. Many of the new arrivals have been uprooted from large cities and have limited English.

Villagers in Dalry have been helping with transport, language lessons and the cultural differences between living in rural Scotland and Ukraine.

Paul Goodwin, a historian who is helping out with the effort said, "If you hear of somebody taking in a people from Ukraine and you know that they work full time, then you will step forward and say, well, I'm retired, I can help, I can be part of the solution."

Olena and Stepan arrived in the UK in June, and are now living in rural Dumfries and Galloway. Credit: ITV News

Stepan and his mother Olena arrived in the UK in June, fleeing the Russian onslaught. They say their welcome could not have been warmer. Stepan said, "All the people that we met the are very good people. They've helped us."

Olena and her son Stepan were given free bikes by a local organisation. Credit: ITV News

Like so many other Ukrainians fleeing war in their homeland. They left more the material possessions behind. Stepan left a father and brother behind in Ukraine. While nothing can make up for the terrible pain of being ripped from their home and loved ones, Stepan says the kindness they've met here has given them hope for the future; "You know, for our trip, we met like many, many, many, many, a lot of people who were very open to us, very friendly. For me, I never thought that the people like that is still exist in the world, you know."

Paul, alongside others in the local area, has been helping the family with English lessons, but also with the differences in culture.

He said, "There are a lot of cultural differences as well as the language differences. Who knew that there's no such thing as a T-H sound in Ukrainian. That's an area to be practiced and rehearsed. And they also don't use the 12 hour clock. So three o'clock in the afternoon or 3 p.m. is not easily understood. They would know that at 15 because they use the 24 hour system. So just helping out with things like that.

"For another example, the couple that are here, after they got bikes provided for them we made sure that they understood that in this country we ride bikes with the traffic. In Ukraine, it's normally that you ride against the traffic."

Anne and Kathryn have been helping to make the refugees feel comfortable in their new surroundings. Credit: ITV News

Kirkcudbrightshire locals Anne Chaurand and Kathryn Peace are also helping the new arrivals settle in and feel more comfortable.

Anne said, "The logistics of them being able to be in a village community to attend a class means that they have to travel quite a lot of miles.

"I made friends with with them and shared transport for shopping trips or walks during which conversation was also going on. I've tried to help them with the language at the same time as trying to help them with the practicality of life. And for me a shopping trip would become an adventure because I am discovering also about their culture."

As for Kathryn, it's not the first time she has welcomed families in need. She took in two Belarusian teenagers after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Reflecting on that experience she said, "We did it because we felt how grateful we were that it wasn't us.".

Speaking about Olena and Stepan, she said, "I just want to help them have a relaxing place to be among friends and to feel secure for the time that they're here. I'm optimistic for them that they can go back to the Ukraine and have a good outcome."