A Ukrainian mother, her two young sons, aged eight and 11, and the boys’ grandmother, arrived in Tideswell on May 2 after fleeing the war-torn country.
Their host Judy says as everything is so new and raw for the family she wants to allow them some privacy after their traumatic ordeal and does not want to share her surname or the family’s names.
She said: “They have been through hell. They lived inside for ten weeks for fear of going outside and getting killed. They have been going down into an air raid shelter for hours at a time.
“They have had to leave loved ones behind and made the choice to leave their country and their home to come to a new country and live with strangers. But here we can give them safety and a new home.
“It has only been just over a week but you can see them starting to relax, starting to unfurl like flowers in the sun.”
Judy says she was watching the news about the war and knew she had to do something to help. “My father was a refugee. He left Czechoslovakia just before the Second World War on the Kinder transport and if he had not been offered sanctuary I wouldn’t be here,” she explained. “Seeing the situation unfold in Ukraine I knew I needed to offer my home to those in need.”
She and her husband signed up to the government’s Ukrainian re-homing scheme as soon as it opened.
Through a work connection Judy was able to find a family in need of a home as the national scheme does not match people with those seeking accommodation, it just helps with the legal and visa side of the process.
“We have two grown up children who have moved out so we had the space. We emptied out their rooms and I moved my office out of the spare bedroom in to my bedroom and we made it work,” Judy added.
“They came with very few possessions but the community have been amazing helping us get games and toys back in the house.”
One of the boys went to a special football school in Ukraine and Judy said he loved the fact there was a donated red football waiting for him on his bed when he arrived.
The children started school two days after arriving and have already started making friends.
“They have already got a play date lined up for this weekend which is brilliant,” Judy added.
“Their friends are now different, their activities may be different but everyone is safe. They have also come on leaps and bounds in just a short time. They arrived pale and scared and not speaking much English but like wonderful sponges they have picked up so much vocabulary and even the High Peak accent!”
Judy says the community has been so welcoming and people have been turning up with gifts and money to help the family settle in.
During Tideswell Food Festival last weekend, Tideswell Brass band played the Ukrainian national anthem which brought tears to everyone’s eyes, she added.
Judy and her husband have also taken the family into Buxton where they said they were surprised to see the Ukrainian flag flying and were moved by people’s support.
The family have been offered free swimming and the mother is being supported by Zink to help her get a job.
“Even though they are smiling and trying to make a home, there are moments when you realise just what they have been through in these last few months,” Judy said.
“The boys saw a flat bed truck with scaffolding poles on it and they thought they were rockets. They thought the little black boxes on top of traffic lights were air raid sirens and they find it strange they haven’t heard a siren since they have been here.
“It will take time – of course it will. I also know that no matter how welcoming we and the whole community are all they want to do is to go home and return to a country with no conflict.
“All we can do is keep telling them they are welcome here for as long as they need to be here and this is their home and their safe place.”
For anyone thinking of becoming a host, Judy suggests talking to any potential families as much as possible beforehand to find the best match.
She added: “It is a privilege and a pleasure to open my home to this family in their time of need and I hope others can do the same too.”
High Peak MP Robert Largan praised the borough’s support for refugees during a debate in Parliament last week, saying: “I have been struck by the number of local people who have stepped up to offer their support in any way that they can.”
For more information about being a host family contact Buxton Friends of Ukraine on Facebook.