'They are my heroes': Ukrainian refugee thanks host family as she starts new job in Worcestershire

By ITV News Central Journalist Rosie Dowsing

A Ukrainian refugee says her host family in Worcestershire are her 'heroes' for supporting her to get work in the UK.

Oksana Bitinieva, 32, fled war-torn Ukraine to live with a family in Hartlebury in April.

She has since started a new job at Hogarths Stone Manor Hotel in Kidderminster.

The wedding planner and jewellery designer from Kyiv has started at the hotel as a housekeeper to get to know the place - and then she's hoping to join the weddings team.

Oksana has not seen her husband and her cat since leaving Kyiv in January to visit a friend in Denmark, unaware a war was about to break out.

After a month she went to Krakow in Poland to stay with another friend.

Then, through a contact in the UK her friend hooked her up with a host family in Hartlebury in Worcestershire, where she moved in April.

Speaking about her new job, the 32-year-old said: "If you need money, and if you need time just to wait for when you can return to Ukraine, it's good.

"It's good to learn languages and earn money. It's a good opportunity."

Oksana added that she wholeheartedly believes Ukraine will be victorious over Russia, so one day she will return.

She said: "I miss Kyiv very much, because, for me Kyiv is the best city in the world."

"Maybe we will be here one month, two months or six months, I don't know. It's very great I can work here, that the Government allow me to work here."


Oksana Bitinieva tells ITV News Central why she's grateful to be starting work as part of her new life in Worcestershire


"The hospitality industry was ravaged by the pandemic"

For the manager of Hogarths Stone Manor Hotel, hiring refugees like Oksana is a solution to the staffing crisis that the pandemic and Brexit has caused for the hospitality industry.

Adam Bessant said: "Especially with Oksana's background in weddings it was a perfect fit."

"The industry has massively been impacted by Covid and then also Brexit, with such a lot of people leaving the industry.

"We will welcome anybody with a background and a love of hospitality with open arms."

The UK's Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme grants refugees a visa that permits them to work, if they are sponsored by a host family as part of the Homes for Ukraine programme.

Oksana has started work as a housekeeper at Hogarths Stone Manor Hotel in Kidderminster. Credit: ITV News Central

"They are my heroes, they are the best people in the world, they are my angels."

Reflecting on the long journey she's already had, and those who have helped her along the way, Oksana says she's grateful especially to her host family.

"They protect me and support me and help with my paperwork - a lot of paperwork - I want to say thank you very much for these people"

"They are my heroes, they are the best people in the world, they are my angels."

The 32-year-old also thanked English people for being welcoming and supportive, she added that the Ukrainian flags in people's windows and cars show warmth and solidarity.

Oksana's new life here might only be temporary, but being able to work gives her both independence and purpose until she can be reunited with her loved ones back home.