Twelve months since the war in Ukraine began, Jovanne Campbell has been looking at how East Sussex has stepped up to help, and has spoken to one family who have found a welcoming home here.

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, more than 800 host families across East Sussex have welcomed those fleeing war in Ukraine into their homes. Over 1,800 Ukrainian guests have also settled in the county since the launch of the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme in February 2022.

Since the start of invasion, many Ukrainians have fled with few possessions, splitting apart from family and friends not knowing when they will be able to see their loved ones again.

Tomorrow (February 24) will also mark one year since the war started.

One guest’s story

We recently spoke with MA, a Ukrainian guest who has asked to remain anonymous, on her experience of living in East Sussex, moving to a new host family, adapting to a new life, her thoughts on the upcoming anniversary and more.

MA currently lives in Eastbourne with her son, after being displaced by the war. She said: “It took a lot of processing and adjustment as the whole experience was emotionally draining. The hardest part, of course, was leaving behind many family members, but the safety of my son was the most important thing.”

After travelling to the UK, MA was placed with her first host family. However, when her first host was unable to continue hosting due to family issues, MA and her son needed to be moved to a new host accommodation.

Moving to a new host

Since the launch of the scheme, 64% of guests that have been paired with hosts are still with their original sponsor. We work closely with partner organisations like Brighton Housing Trust to prevent homelessness in the area.

The aim of the partnership is to sustain placements, as well as support Ukrainian guests to access health and community services, and employment and educational opportunities. We worked carefully with Brighton Housing Trust to make sure that MA and her son found a new sponsorship arrangement.

Wonderful people

MA said: “Our new hosts were extremely welcoming in their home and are wonderful people. One of the first things they asked me was about my expectations, and they told me theirs. It was important for both of us to understand how best to deal with those things that might not always be apparent.”

She continued: “I have lived in East Sussex now with two host families and I think that the most important thing is about being patient and open. Learning about UK culture has been interesting, as of course there are differences. If you are open, then there will be good communication and understanding.”

Handshake in front of a Ukraine flag

Marking the one-year anniversary of the war

The Ukrainian flag will be raised at County Hall in Lewes on Friday, 24 February in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as the county marks the anniversary of the Russia invasion. And at 11am, the council will join the national one-minute silence to commemorate one year since the start of the war.

MA said: “It does not feel real that it will be one year since the war started. It seems like yesterday when we had to leave. I think about those moments every single day and every day I pray that my friends and my family that are still in Ukraine are safe.”

How you can help

As the war continues, we’re still expecting over 300 guests to arrive in the coming weeks. We’re still looking for host families in East Sussex to join the Homes for Ukraine scheme who can offer a home, or spare room for at least six months.

Visit the East Sussex County Council website for more information on how we are  supporting Ukrainians fleeing the conflict and what you can do to help.