Ukrainian resident working for Blackburn with Darwen Council shares her story and thanks team

Published Tuesday 20 December 2022 at 11:08

When the war in Ukraine broke out in February this year millions of people fled to find shelter.

In Blackburn with Darwen there were 56 arrivals and the families were split across 32 sponsors.

During this time support has been offered for the refugees and families have been able to settle within the borough, including Blackburn with Darwen Council worker, Olena Lysenko.

Olena fled Ukraine with her two children and one carrier bag when bombs were dropped in her hometown of Kharkiv.

She has now settled in Blackburn with her family and works for the council within the housing needs team as a co-ordinator for the Homes for Ukraine scheme, responsible for breaking down language barriers for other Ukrainian residents to help them settle.

Olena also arranges a coffee morning at Blackburn Library on the first Saturday of each month for families to get together and talk about their experiences.

Most recently residents gathered together to have a Christmas party for Ukrainian children with gifts from Secret Santa and an interactive craft workshop delivered by the Blackburn Festival of Light Team and they created a Giant bird which was later used in the Festival of Lights Parade.

Yeva-Mariia Haliuk aged 3 and Katya Lysenko age 6 attend the coffee mornings to meet other children from Ukraine

Olena shared her story and said: “When the war started in February my husband and I watched through the window. We thought fireworks were going off to begin with but it was the bombs exploding.

“I had to leave the house at 5am in the morning with my two children and we were on the road for five days. It has been very difficult leaving my parents behind in Ukraine who are 75 and 85.

“It has been hard but people have been kind by trying to help me a lot and my English is improving. I help others set up a bank account and find work as well as helping to settle their children at school.

“The coffee mornings have been successful so that residents can get together and catch up, our children can talk to others in their language and it is nice to let them play together whilst the adults support each other.

“I also want to thank my colleague Sasha Johnson who welcomed me into the team. I was trained by her so well she has been fantastic at helping me with my responsibilities and priorities for my job.”

A welcome party has been arranged by The Bureau Centre for the Arts for residents will be held on January 7 – the original date of the Ukrainian Christmas celebrations which was changed two years ago to December 25.

This is for all Ukrainian residents in the borough and an opportunity for them to come together and meet other BwD residents.

Stephen Richards, Housing Needs and Support Manager, said: “It is great to have Olena in the team because she is helping us break down language barriers and get families a safe place to stay because of the war.

“We can support them with housing needs but we offer a much wider service to make sure they get the help they need to live a better life within the community.”

Councillor Damian Talbot, Executive Member for Public Health, Prevention and Wellbeing, said: “We are committed to improving the quality of life for our residents and aim to make sure that our workforce is inclusive to deliver the services for those victims of war.

“The war in Ukraine is still on-going and we are working alongside the government to make sure refugees are given a better quality of life when they escape the tragedy. Olena’s story is one of many heart-breaking cases and I am pleased that she is working with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council to offer support to others.

“We aim to keep all residents safe and will continue to work together and improve the quality of life for families living in Blackburn with Darwen.”

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