Torbay to mark two years since the invasion of Ukraine began

Thursday 24th February 2022 – a date to be remembered by many for decades to come, as the day Russia began its escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war (which began on 20th February 2014) with the invasion of Ukraine. To date, this has been the largest attack on a European country since World War II.

The estimate for the amount of Ukrainian civilian casualties runs into the tens of thousands, alongside the hundreds in the military who have resisted the Russian advance, with the determined, defiant Ukrainian spirit inspiring many worldwide.

Out of all the lives that had been uprooted, over eight million Ukrainians were forced to flee their homeland, sparking Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, with more than 200,000 seeking a safe haven here in the United Kingdom, with a government scheme launched in March 2022 to support them in their new homes. Nearly 200 Ukrainians have since settled in Torbay, with support from local services and groups, including the services of Torbay Communities.

More than sixty host families in the bay opened their homes to those fleeing the war, with approximately 116 receiving support from drop-in sessions held at the Torbay Community Café & Help Hub on Temperance Street in Torquay.

Since then, as part of a Ukrainian Stakeholder Group with local voluntary and statutory groups and a £20,000 grant courtesy of Torbay Council, efforts have gone towards events, transport, English language classes, and most recently, counselling provided by a qualified Ukrainian psychologist.

We cannot begin to imagine the pure terror many will have faced over the course of these last two years, but as a nation who have fended off arguably one of history’s most infamous forces (insert joke about rival international sports team here) we can certainly at least appreciate the spirit of those doing their absolute best to maintain their way of life, to help any new neighbours as we would, regardless of where they came from – it was an alliance that helped us to victory in the past, after all.

I appreciate many would take a leaf out of Basil Fawlty’s book by saying “Don’t mention the war!” but the simple reality is for many, this is an unavoidable subject, one many can’t afford to ignore, one a lot of us cannot turn a blind eye to, considering the international ramifications it has had (including a contributing factor to our own Cost of Living Crisis here in the UK) and will continue to have for a long time to come. Burying one’s head in the sand seldom works.

Alongside the Ukrainian refugees, we have also offered support to more than 240 asylum seeker refugees in Torbay, who like the Ukrainians, have had to flee their homes after attempts to condemn or destroy their lives – in this case the causes ranging from persecution (based on race, faith, sexual orientation, family ties, etc.) to war and genocide.

They may speak a combined total of more than a hundred languages but coming together to support one another and bring people together is our specialty. By installing and maintaining systems of support, we’ve strived to help the asylum seekers too, despite political pressures. These have included a vast donation scheme of essential items and clothing, volunteer placements, health and wellbeing activities, English language classes, homework clubs, social events, sports, and employability skills, to name but a few – all enabled by a robust team of community volunteers and groups.

Two years after the invasion of Ukraine began, on Saturday 24th February 2024, Torbay Communities in conjunction with the Ukrainian community, partners, and Torbay Council, will be hosting a memorial service to mark the 2nd anniversary.

The Memorial event will be open to members of the public, to any who wish to participate and pay their respects. You can join us at Upton Vale Church, St Marychurch Road in Torquay (TQ1 3HY) this Saturday, 12-3pm.

For any further details on support available for refugees, asylum seekers, hosts or Saturday’s memorial event, please contact Ash Rangasamy by emailing [email protected] or phone 07703 715222. Alternatively, contact Yuliia Polutska by emailing [email protected].