'They are such nice people, and we get along so well' - we catch up with one of the first households in Leeds to take in Ukrainian refugees

Guiseley resident Tina Barry was so horrified by the pictures of Ukrainian towns and cities being destroyed by Russian bombs, she decided to open her home to two Ukrainian refugees.

By Richard Beecham
Saturday, 21st May 2022, 11:30 am

Tine and her husband David were among the first households in the UK set to take in Ukrainian refugees as strangers when they first spoke to the YEP back in March.

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And five weeks on, we checked in with them to see how they're getting on, now that interior designer Oxana and her 15-year-old son Sasha have successfully fled their war torn home to come and stay in the couple's Guiseley home.

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David and Tina Barry.

"Getting the house ready was pretty straightforward," said Tina. "We made space and we were ready for them.

"What I wasn't ready for was the absolute mountain of admin."

Before Oxana and Sasha came to the house, Tina and husband David had to be DBS checked, and have their home inspected by the council.

Since her guests arrived on April 13, numerous administrative hurdles had to be cleared - as Oxana and Sasha have only just received their British residency cards, while Tina helped the two to sign on for Universal Credit and get enrolled onto English language courses.

"Sasha is 15 so he has to be at school," said Tina. "But we have got him a place at the college, who have been really good. He is on an ESOL course and is really enjoying that."

She added Oxana was keen to learn English and was currently doing a course in Bradford, and had also joined Tina's art group.

"She entered pictures into Menston Art Club's show," she added. "They are amazing, fantastic paintings!"

So has the language barrier been challenging?

Tina said: "When they got here, Sasha had done English at school, so he was not too bad, but his mum hadn't done any formal English at all, but the speed with which they are learning the language is absolutely phenominal.

"But we do use Google translate a lot of the time. Usually when something is complicated and really needs to be understood."

She added that both her and Oxana were given advice and support by Leeds City Council at the Reginald centre in Chapeltown Road.

"They had a translator and they were very helpful," Tina said. "The council have been good - even though I know that they are stretched.

"Because they are one of the first to come here, we are doing a lot of things for the first time, so a lot of it was unclear, but things are panning out and catching up slowly."

Tina said that there was plenty of interaction and support from other host families via Whatsapp and Facebook groups, but said adapting to Oxana and Sasha living with them has not been difficult.

"We get on so well, and they are such nice people," said Tina. "They are very involved in the household routine - cooking and helping with the dogs.

"We went on holiday and they looked after the dogs - we felt confident enough to leave them and I think they enjoyed having a bit of space!"

If you have space in your home and wish to help those fleeing Ukraine, sign up at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-visa-under-the-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme.