Ukrainian Christmas something to behold

ROTHERHAM’S “unsung heroes” organised a “fabulous” event so Ukrainian refugees could celebrate Christmas after a tumultuous year.

With long tables piled with food, a fantastic vibe and the feeling of one, big family, the Parish Hall in Laughton-en-le-Morthen was decked in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag on Friday to mark Christmas Eve for Orthodox Christians.

Janice Cutting (67), one of the main organisers of the event, said she was expecting a total of 80 people to attend as Rotherham residents celebrated Christmas with the refugees.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said: “When I had my two Ukrainian guests around my home one evening, I asked them: ‘How do you celebrate Christmas in Ukraine?’

“They told me their main celebration days were January 6 and 7 — the sixth being Christmas Eve and the seventh being Christmas Day.

“That is when all the families get together and share food.

“I thought: ‘Hang on, there are a lot of people here who don’t have a family but can create one big family’, and it grew from there. People have been very good in making donations to make it happen.”

She added: “We have quite a lot of Ukrainian guests in the village.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“They all meet up and they all get on really well. It’s a nice little community.”

Janice said that after war broke out last year, she had felt she had no choice but to help those in need.

She said: “My husband Steve and I have two spare rooms and felt we needed to help these people. There was no debate about it.

“We’ve gone from barely being able to speak because of the language difficulties to now where we can have normal conversations — their English has come along very well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We’ve got a 12-year-old boy who just makes our house alive.

“It is absolutely wonderful. He told me: ‘Janice, you’re mummy number two.’

“They’ll stay as long they need to.”

The Mayor of Rotherham, Cllr Tajamal Khan, expressed his gratitude towards the volunteers, calling them “our unsung heroes”.

Thanking those who opened their doors to the refugees, he said: “We couldn’t have done it without them.

“The set-up here looks absolutely fabulous.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Refugee Valerii Radishchev (18) has been in the UK for five months and said he liked living here – although in reality England was quite different from how it appears in the movies.

“Kath (his host) is a brilliant woman,” he said.

“She has given help and a house to live in — it’s really kind of her.

“There are five of us — my mum, dad, my two brothers and I.

“England, in the movies is a bit different. They only show London…that’s why it was a bit odd (when first coming here) but you get used to it.”

Valerii said that youngsters carol singing for neighbours remained a big part of a traditional Ukrainian Christmas, adding: “It’s a big business for little children.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One challenge Valerii has found is the time taken to get a reply when applying for a job.

He added: “I need to be patient. Sometimes you start thinking whether you’ve done something wrong.”

Valerii, who is studying maths and English in college, said it was “a big question” about whether he would like to stay in the UK permanently.

“I’d like to finish my education first,” he said.

“I’d like to go back and visit my relatives and friends but for now I’d like to stay in England.”

Related topics: