By the time I retired from my EU job in 2010 I had been to almost every formerly communist country in Europe but not Ukraine. Many books I had read (eg by Sebag Montefiore, Josef Roth, Jaroslav Hasek, Alexander Watson) had touched on it and Czechoslovak studies at university in the 1970s had rubbed right up against it but I always somehow avoided going deeper. Perhaps I was intimidated by the Russian alphabet or the feeling that a little knowledg could be worse than nothing. I knew, for example, that during the creation of the UN the USSR (ie Stalin) had insisted upon Ukraine having its own separate membership - which gave him two votes in the general assembly. A bit awkward to say now that it's not really a country!
Whatever the source of my own ignorance, recent events have stimulated some filling of the void. I can recommend a couple of excellent histories by Serhii Plokhy, now at Havard and a charming novel, Sweet Darusya, about an elderly village woman living in a part of Ukraine over which international borders have oscillated in recent times.
The dreadful plight of people caught up in the recent Russian invasion led us in March to offer a room to a refugee. Distressingly slow though our government was to get moving, it is good to report that the guest we have sponsored arrived here two days ago. Haringey's reactions have been impressively slick thus far and we are beginning a new line in self education about the thickets of universal credit, job centres, language courses etc. My opening pleasure has been to stroll with him along Green Lanes to illustrate the many good things we have around us.
I am sure things will not all be rosy but don't let anyone tell you that Ukrainians are any different or less deserving of understanding than any other neighbour.
Thank you for this Dick. I have worked in Ukraine a fair bit over the years and know the country quite well. I've got lots of friends there - and like you, we've also taken in two Ukrainians from Kharkiv. I wonder how many more there are nearby?
Perhaps holding an informal kick about one Sunday in Chestnuts would flush them out, help them find each other make a few connections with the locals. Or get them along to Haringey Borough next season. They'd appreciate the colours of the team strip if nothing else.
It's almost exclusively women, btw, who've arrived here, woman and kids.
I can now report that our Ukrainian guest has moved on five months into the six months we offered under the government's scheme. We gave him two months notice and informed the relevant people at Haringey Council. With some assistance from them, our guest found a studio flat to rent in Brixton quite near to where his ex-wife and daughter now have their own flat.
So far as we are concerned, Haringey Council reacted well to the challenge of dealing with the influx of refugees. I read in the newspapers that, in the country at large, there is a looming housing problem as the initial six-month placements come to an end. I haven't heard of such cases locally.
It's not so much a housing crisis but an illegal immigration crisis which is putting pressure on housing stock. I'm keen that we help the Ukrainians but we can't do that and accomodate all the illegal entrants coming over on boats from France as well. Back in February the BBC said it was costing UK taxpayers nearly £5 million PER DAY to temporarily house the combination of genuine refugees from Afghanistan and illegal immigrants arriving on boats. Since February, the number of daily boat arrivals has risen and recently tipped 1000 a day so that £5 million is below the current cost. The media was quoting Border Authority sources on the record last week to say that the vast majority were young men from Albania.
That is not sustainable. We could be arming the Ukrainians even more, temporarily accomodating their wives and children here and hiring nurses, police and child care workers with the change. Even £5 million per day is over £1.5 BILLION per year.
The Government has some hard choices to make.
The BBC article from February is here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-60249130
And well done Dick for helping the young man out for five months.
The Ukrainian refugees have come perfectly legally courtesy of Ryan Air and were accommodated by UK sponsors mostly in their own homes. This, I suppose, made little difference to the availability of housing for other people. Sponsorship can continue beyond the initial six months and, if necessary, a refugee could find a new sponsor. The "looming housing problem" I was referring to was the possibility that some of the Ukrainian refugees now coming to the end of their first six months might not easily find either a new sponsor or a flat of their own. It was said in the press, that volunteer sponsors were being deterred by the increased cost of living despite the £350 per month "thankyou payments" given to sponsors. In our case, we did not wish to continue and our guest found a privately rented studio. I believe that Haringey still needs sponsors so the use of spare rooms is still possible even though our guest no longer needs one. He is not, incidentally, a "young man" but a 51 year old father of a 17 year old daughter.
Yes, there will be few affordable flats or houses for Ukrainians when they're all taken up by people who we didn't invite here. Processing facilities are bursting at the seams and Sunak is now apparently investigating whether private citizens can take in illegal immigrants because the Government is running out of guesthouses, B&B and similar options to accomodate them. Incidentally, listening to the Radio 4 news tonight, the £5m per day figure has increased to £7m which equates to over £2 billion per year (and that's just the cost of accomodating them, not the cost of additional security, medical services, staff to process them, additional naval patrols in the channel etc). That would cover a few public sector pay increases.
I know its subjective, but 51 is still young.
A friend of ours who has hosted a string of Ukrainians (and some others) has prepared a guide "Resources for London private rented accommodation search" It includes plenty of factual information and a London rents heat map for the use/guidance of anyone who may be interested in finding rented accommodation.
The author gives her e-mail address and is open to questions and suggestions for improvements.
That's really helpful Dick. Thank you