Ukrainian children, who have been welcomed with their families to Surrey Heath through the Homes for Ukraine scheme, helped the Mayor of Surrey Heath Cllr Helen Whitcroft and SHBC Leader Cllr Alan McClafferty raise the Ukrainian flag outside Surrey Heath House mark Ukrainian Independence Day yesterday.
The Mayor and Leader of the Council spoke at the event, along with Max Rafa, one of our Ukrainian guests who has been living in Surrey Heath for several months after leaving his war-torn homeland.
Many of our Ukrainian guests and their sponsors attended the event, bringing along traditional Ukrainian food and drink to share with everyone after the flag raising. Delicacies included medovik (honey cake), rogalyky biscuits, nalysnyky (crepes), khrusty cookies & kanapky (open sandwiches).
Guests at the well-attended event also included SHBC councillors, council staff and partners.
The lawn at Surrey Heath House was decorated with sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine, and a symbol of hope for the future. Many of the sunflower decorations had been handmade at the weekly social hubs in Camberley and Chobham, which SHBC run with partners to support our Ukrainian guests and sponsors.
Cllr Whitcroft said: “On this Independence Day for Ukraine, I want to pay tribute to the millions of Ukrainians who continue to battle valiantly for the freedom of their country against huge odds. All right-thinking people across the world support their struggle and admire their courage, their resilience, and their determination to retain Ukraine’s independence and freedom for all their people.
“I also want to pay tribute to those who have been forced out of their country by unprovoked aggression. We are proud to have given temporary homes to some of these displaced Ukrainians here in Surrey Heath.”
Cllr McClafferty said: “Exactly 100 years ago, Ukraine lost its independence to the Soviet Union, and in 1991 they took it back. And we’re here today in support of Ukrainians everywhere, when once again they are forced to fight for their independence. I think we can all admire the bravery of the Ukraine people in so many different ways.
“I think we can also be proud that our small but important Borough is playing a small but important part in this conflict.
“The residents of Surrey Heath have opened their homes and their hearts to the people of Ukraine, and we as a Council have worked hard to help our new friends settle in and begin to rebuild their lives. This work will of course continue. So, to our Ukrainian friends I say, ‘Surrey Heath z vamy – Surrey Heath is with you!’”
Max Rafa, who fled his home in Ukraine and is now living with hosts in Surrey Heath, said: “Today, no matter what, we are able to celebrate our Independence Day.
“We want to thank the local authority for everything they have done and continue to do for all the Ukrainians guests since we have arrived. Your support is felt very strongly!
“We also want to thank all our incredible hosts for your warmth, friendship, generosity and care, taking us into your homes and welcoming us into your families.
“The overwhelming support that has been given to us as your guests in Surrey Heath is a great comfort to all our families and loved ones back home in Ukraine. They will be joining us today in celebrating this special independence day.”
Surrey Heath Borough Council continues to stand with the people of Ukraine. More than 150 Ukrainians have been welcomed in Surrey Heath through the Homes for Ukraine scheme, with more than 100 sponsors locally offering space in their homes to those fleeing the conflict.
More about Surrey Heath’s support for Ukrainian refugees at surreyheath.gov.uk/residents/communities-wellbeing/ukrainian-refugees