Jocelyn, a befriending volunteer, was matched with Tetiana in October 2023 and they have been meeting regularly since. Here, Jocelyn shares her experience of supporting Tetiana to find a place to belong.

"On first meeting Tetiana I realise English is a challenge for her, and this will be a huge drawback living in the UK. 

"To start our first meeting I suggest a coffee, but Tetiana is off work with a bad back and sitting is painful, moving is better, so we walk through the streets looking, exploring and talking. She is very hesitant to start speaking and I can feel her trying so hard to construct a complete, grammatically correct sentence in her head before she begins. I try to make it as casual as possible, finding interesting buildings. An unplanned start, walking and exploring, proved positive and much less intense than having a face-to-face conversation in a café.

"I have ideas of what we might do when we meet up, but always listen to Tetiana to find out what she would like to do. For several weeks her back remains bad, so we continue walking and exploring. After walking we manage a coffee in Debbie Bryan’s, exploring the Lace Archives it holds, this prompts Tetiana to tell me about all the crafts she learnt from her grandmother. She talks more and more about her family, about growing up.

Tetiana becomes more and more  confident and clear about what she wants to do: practise her English as much as possible.

"I suggest going to Waterstones, introducing her to the writer Judith Kerr who escaped Germany as a child on the Kindertransport and was a refugee in England. The wide selection of books meant we are able to find something Tetiana was comfortable reading, that she could be successful with and help build her confidence. 

"Finally we have visited the new Central Library, with its airy modern design, the playful immersive space, the local studies section with exhibitions that make so much sense of the places we have explored, but most of all the children’s books. Tetiana reads Michael Rosen’s ‘Sad’. She reads it so well - the clarity and brevity of language yet the complex ideas and feelings echo so much of Tetiana. We hang on to his positivity and use that as a tool to think of all she has had the courage to get through and to be positive about what she can do and how she can be.

"One very bright sunny autumn morning I suggested a walk in the Arboretum to see the autumn leaves but Tetiana is serious and asks to go to Estate Agents in the search for a rented home for her and her daughters. The Estate Agent is polite but it’s very clear in the current market this is highly unlikely.

As we talk I see that Tetiana is determined, and focused on solutions. 

"It is such a pleasure a few weeks later to help her move into new home with her two daughters at last, in their own space, with windows they can see out of. Tetiana is emotional, she describes the joy of them being together, but tinged with sadness because news of her husband in Ukraine is not good.

"In the months I have been meeting Tetiana it’s felt like a journey, giving me much greater insight into the impact of political and military decisions which shatter lives and divide families and friends, but most of all it's been a journey of accompanying a very caring, thoughtful and insightful woman."

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