Ukraine case study: Suzanne’s story
We spoke to Suzanne Lindsay, from Ely, who has offered her home to a guest from Ukraine
Suzanne and her husband, Dr Ian Lindsay from Ely were among the first people to volunteer to host a Ukrainian guest.
Suzanne said: “It was a reaction from the heart really. Ian and I are both from the post-war generation, so being able to help out really meant a great deal to us. Any slight inconvenience we have faced with giving up a room in our home completely pales into insignificance when you consider what might have happened in Ukraine.”
Once they made up their mind the couple registered their interest with the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. They were eventually put in touch with Olena after she responded to a Facebook notification, and with the help of their daughter-in-law who speaks Russian were able to offer their support.
“The most frustrating thing was the wait between making contact with Olena in Ukraine and then picking her up at the end of April from St Pancreas Station in London. We were obviously worried something would happen in between, but fortunately, all was well.”
The couple found the language barrier quite daunting at first because Olena didn’t speak much English, but with the help of their daughter-in-law and using WhatsApp with Google Translate, they were soon able to understand one another.
Initially, the couple treated Olena like a guest, taking her on sightseeing trips and helping her to relax in her new environment from the horrors she’s left behind, but it was also necessary to help Olena adjust to the realities of a new life living in East Cambs.
They helped Olena to register for Universal Credit and with the Job Centre. They also became regular visitors of the Ukraine Hub which meets every Thursday at the Lighthouse Centre in Ely.
“It was good because Olena was able to meet other Ukrainians and from our point of view were able to compare notes with other hosts and exchange ideas. It’s good that we now know like-minded people who also felt the same as us.”
The couple also admit they needed to adjust to having another person living in their home.
“You have to remember that you are taking on an independent adult. There have been moments of discomfort because it can affect your routine, but in the main, it works. Olena has her own room and mealtimes also work well because as is customary for many people in Ukraine Olena has a later lunch and a smaller supper, which frees up the kitchen for us to use in the evening.
“Olena herself has also been very accommodating. She is doing her best to improve her English and was desperate to get a job so she can feel she is contributing.
“My advice for people considering taking on a guest is do it, but only if it is right for you. We have found you need to be generous with your time and it’s also important to consider where you live. We are lucky because we live in Ely and Olena has been able to get about independently, but we know of other hosts who live more remotely who have had to help with transport for their guests.”
“We know Olena is very grateful and overall we have been delighted to be in a position to offer her support. The whole experience has definitely enriched our lives and we hope the support we have been able to provide has put her in a good place for getting on with the rest of her life.”