Published: Wednesday, 17th August 2022
Wednesday 24 August is Ukrainian Independence Day and the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk is extending an open invitation to the local community to join an event of reflection.
On a day that will also coincidentally mark 6 months since the conflict began, at King’s Staithe Square there will be a gathering to demonstrate the continuing support of the people of the borough for the people of Ukraine.
Council leader, Cllr Stuart Dark MBE, said:
“We continue to stand firmly with the people of Ukraine against Putin’s illegal war and the humanitarian crisis this has created. We are holding a short event as a visible demonstration of this.
“We would love people to join us in showing our small community of refugees that we care.”
“However, our support goes way beyond lighting up buildings and gathering together.
“For six months our officers, in partnership with the Hanseatic Union and Access Support for Migrants, have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to support people who have fled the war.
“Once we knew that we were likely to receive refugees in the borough we set up a welcome centre in just 10 days with appropriate funds and resources to support it. So far it has helped more than 120 families and individuals in making a life in west Norfolk and the UK.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the fantastic people of west Norfolk for their role in welcoming Ukrainians to our borough. Some have offered accommodation, some have used their businesses to offer help and others have simply extended the hand of friendship. I believe there are few communities who could have done more and I thank you with all my heart.”
Cllr Terry Parish, leader of the Independent group of councillors, said:
“The people of west Norfolk have surpassed themselves with their response to the Ukrainians’ need for help.
“They have benefited too, as a local host family has said, ‘Our experience has been very positive and we are all learning about different cultures, languages and food. It is reassuring that, in such awful circumstance, a little help can go so far.’
“We at the borough council welcome our new residents and will continue to support them, just as we continue to oppose Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion.
“This is an opportunity to demonstrate our ongoing commitment and I am glad to support it.”
Cllr Charles Joyce, leader of the Labour group of councillors, said:
“West Norfolk has a long tradition of strong international relations dating back to medieval times.
“Local people can hold their head proud that when refugees from Ukraine needed our help, we did not walk by on the other side but rose to the occasion and will continue to do so.
“We’re using this opportunity to mark Ukraine Independence Day but I hope it demonstrates to all our migrant communities that West Norfolk is a place where they are welcome and can flourish.”
To mark Ukrainian Independence Day, on both 23 and 24 August, the Corn Exchange and Custom House will be lit in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
On the afternoon of 24 August, a day that would normally be marked by family celebration in Ukraine, the council has arranged for local Ukrainian families to enjoy two of this year’s blockbuster films, Minions and Jurassic World, at the Corn Exchange. Both have been dubbed into Ukrainian. These will be followed by the event of reflection later in the evening at 9pm.
But it isn’t just the practicalities that the welcome centre helps with. Julie Chaplin, project lead for the Hanseatic Union, said:
“We offer a range of practical support but sometimes the first thing people need is a person who listens and understands and we can give them that.
“People arrive having heard of bombing in their hometowns, not knowing if their families are safe.
“They need emotional as well as practical help and we can provide it all, especially now we have two Ukrainian team members working in the welcome centre who have been through what the new arrivals are experiencing.
“I’m so grateful for the support from the borough council, which has made this partnership possible, as it made such a difference to people’s lives.”