Dozens of Ukrainian families and their hosts attended a special ‘welcome to the borough’ event organised by several local community groups and Trafford Council.
More than 120 Ukrainians gathered at Stretford Public Hall for the event which was organised to officially welcome them to Trafford and give them all the help and advice they need to settle into the borough.
They were joined by many members of the Greater Manchester Ukrainian community, who offered encouragement and support to help them settle in the region.
The gathering on Monday evening also provided an opportunity for those present to say thank you to the dozens of hosts who have stepped forward to provide places to stay for the Ukrainians escaping their war-torn country.
The event was officially opened by Trafford Mayor Cllr Chris Boyes and there were speeches by Council Leader Cllr Andrew Western, GM Mayor Andy Burnham, Ruth Lancey from the Hideaway, Bob Sopel, Chair of the Manchester branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain and Trafford Council’s Deputy Chief Executive Sara Saleh.
The Mayor welcomed everyone to the event and added: “We appreciate wholeheartedly that you will need to be in contact with friends and relatives who have remained in the Ukraine and we will do everything possible to make that communication for you.”
Cllr Western, who took to the stage with Trafford’s three other political leaders, said: “We know there are many places you would rather be in your homeland and we extend our welcome and thoughts to you and your families.” He added: “The many charitable organisations and local organisation etc here today are to help you to settle in our borough of Trafford. I want you to know we are all horrified at what is happening in the Ukraine and stand in total solidarity with you.”
The Council – along with its partners – is spearheading a strategic support plan for those that have arrived from Ukraine in recent months which includes carrying out accommodation suitability and safeguarding checks, administering Government-funded payments to sponsors, arranging school places for children and referring individuals to services and support including health, benefits and job seeking.
There were a number of stalls at the Public Hall offering advice on several topics including health, education and benefits and those present were treated to live music from traditional Ukrainian musicians.
Mr Burnham said: “Just as Trafford is your new home, you are now Greater Mancunians and your home is Greater Manchester too. On behalf of everybody who lives here – our two famous football clubs as well – I’m here to say the warmest of welcomes to you all. Greater Manchester has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing war. We will always provide safety to those in need and we have a history of welcoming those from the Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian nationals attending the event were also enjoying meeting up with others from across the country and sharing stories of their homeland.
Mother and daughter Halyna and Nataliya, who come from the Tlumach area, arrived at their home in Altrincham in April. Nataliya said: “Everything is good in Trafford and we are really enjoying being here. My children are in school settling in well.”
Her mother explained that the family had decided to make the move to Trafford after realising that their country was hugely unsafe and that the bombs were traumatising the children.
Pasha, who comes from the city of Kharkiv in the Ukraine was at the welcome event with his host Michael from Partington. He explained how he loved Trafford as it was a “beautiful mix between the old and the new.”
Andrea Lea, who runs the Bearly Loved charity in Sale, was also at the event. She is sending teddy bears donated in Trafford to children in the Ukraine and was asking youngsters at the event to fill in teddy bear passports before they were sent off.
Sara Saleh wrapped up the event with this message: “You guys have definitely brought us some hope into our hearts so when it is time to return to the Ukraine I hope you take some of Manchester back in your hearts, too. Thank you, it has been lovely to see you all.”