How do you decide what to pack when you flee from your country? You’re almost certainly going to have to carry it yourself, so you can’t take everything. I watched footage on last night’s TV news of people leaving Ukraine, pulling little suitcases, the sort you can take onboard a plane as hand-luggage. How do you balance the practical - what will be the useful stuff to pack? - and the sentimental -what do I absolutely not want to leave behind because of all the memories attached? After all, there’s no guarantee you’ll come back to find your old home just as it was when you left.
Poland is accepting refugees and is setting up settlement camps - even that sounds grim - how welcoming is a settlement camp? - and Germany is offering to help.
Meanwhile in the UK, Nadia Whittome MP has tweeted this:
“The UK government has stopped accepting visa applications from all Ukrainians who do not have a close British family member living in Ukraine.
This will prevent Ukrainian refugees from coming to the UK, including those with family here.
This is completely inhumane.”
It makes all the grand speeches about our sympathy, our thoughts and prayers going out to the people of Ukraine seem rather hollow. It’s probably in line with immigration policy though, at least for those who can’t afford gold visas! Maybe the decision will be reversed. It’s not going to do much for the government’s reputation and popularity, after all.
There’s a well established Ukrainian community in Greater Manchester. Our friend Lawrence McGinty posted this background information:
“Ukrainians are recorded as first settling in Manchester in the late 19th and early 20th century. Often referred to as the 'old immigrants', they lived mainly in the Red Bank area, off Cheetham Hill Road. After the Second World War, more Ukrainians, displaced persons and ex-POWs settled in Manchester. By the late 1940s, it is thought that there were around 10,000 Ukrainians in and around Manchester.
The majority were Ukrainian Catholic. They first worshipped at Catholic churches, such as St. Chad's on Cheetham Hill Road. In 1954, Father Djoba became parish priest at St Mary's Ukrainian (Uniate) Catholic Church, also known as Dormition of Our Lady.
The first Ukrainian social club opened at Brideoak Street, Cheetham Hill, around 1930. Two other clubs were opened in Whalley Range in the late 1940s-early -50s, but these were closed in the 1990s. The current Ukrainian club/cultural centre on Smedley Lane, Cheetham Hill was opened in 1963 (I remember once climbing in through a toilet window, because I'd been turned away at the door for being too young - 14 trying to pass for 18). The club now includes a concert hall, restaurant, classrooms and a dance practice room.
The Manchester Branch of the Association of Ukrainians in GB was established in 1949. Soon there were Ukrainian choir and folk dance groups as well as organisations for Ukrainian women, youth and ex-servicemen. A Ukrainian Saturday School was founded in 1954, which has taught thousands of 2nd and 3rd generation Manchester Ukrainian children, and which still operates today as a supplementary school offering nursery, child and adult educational services. The Smedley Lane club is also a venue for a pensioner’s lunch club, keep fit classes and is hired for christenings, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, wakes, etc.
The Manchester Ukrainian song (Homin) and dance (Orlyk) ensembles are the longest established traditional Ukrainian folk groups in the UK. They promote Ukrainian song and dance not only in the North West, but nationally and internationally. They take part in festivals in Europe and America. Both groups have appeared at the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen and won first prizes in their categories. Amongst their many honours they've performed before the Royal Family, Pope John Paul II, Presidents, Ambassadors and many other dignitaries. The groups also returned to Ukraine in the early 1990s, where they had the honour of celebrating Ukraine's independence from the former Soviet Union.”
Those people will have relatives in Ukraine. They will want to welcome them here.
Also meanwhile, the president of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, is the latest European leader to ask Russian people to stop the war saying: “Even though much evil has been committed, it’s not too late to stop all of this.”
He said: “I appeal to you mothers of soldiers who are sent to die in Ukraine. I appeal to you soldiers who are fighting a war for who knows why.
“What is the meaning of this war? Only because someone is sitting at a table, drew a piece of land on the map, that he wants to take away?
“A piece of land that never belonged to him. Does not belong to him. And will never belong to him.
“It’s terrifying to see what is going on. It’s terrifying to see women and children die. Churches are being destroyed. What are you fighting for? You are destroying what is sacred to all the Slavs. The cradle of Orthodoxy. Kiev Rus.
“Stop. Think about what you’re doing. About what your leaders are doing. It’s not too late, even though much evil has been committed, it’s not too late to stop all of this.”
How many problems have been caused by people drawing lines on maps?
Let’s hope a solution can be found before too much damage has been done.
Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!