Penrith And Eden Refugee Network

Penrith and Eden Refugee Network


When war broke out in Ukraine in February 2022, Yuliia was forced to flee, crossing the border to Poland with her young son, Mykyta. There, she waited to be matched with an English host under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and in July 2022 she and Mykyta made their way to rural Cumbria. 


This was their first time in the UK. Yuliia knew little of the way of life or the language, but was determined to provide Mykyta with the best possible opportunity for the future. ‘My first impressions were that this was very different from my country – a different mentality, food, culture, everything.  I had problems with the English language, but we had good hosts, they explained everything and helped very much.’


Yuliia and Mykyta lived in a small village in the Eden Valley. She says that it was difficult to adapt to rural life because she was used to the hustle and bustle of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Her hosts often took her to PERN events in Penrith, which soon became an important part of her new life. She says ‘When I lived in the village I went regularly to the group in the library. I made a lot of friends. Claudi (PERN’s Community Outreach Officer) was, after my hosts, the person who helped me most to understand things. She helped me feel not like I am someone who needs help but that I can do something myself. Claudi is a very positive person, always smiling and I feel very comfortable with her. I know that at any time I can go to her or call her and talk to her about anything. Every time, she gives me advice and is very helpful.’


Yuliia began to participate in art classes organised by BlueJam Arts and PERN. She says that she and other Ukrainians have found solace in the sessions, and are grateful to Jilly, BlueJam’s director.  She says ‘Jilly opened her studio to people who want to paint and she helps us understand what we want to create. Many Ukrainians like me have a very stressful time because this is another country and we have war at home. Painting has helped me to relax and to express myself. I want to paint more and more and, although now I do not have enough time, I try because when I can express myself it helps.’


Yuliia and her son moved from the village to Penrith a year after arriving in the UK. She is now leading some of the art sessions at BlueJam, and she and other artists hold exhibitions and sell paintings. She combines this work with her new job as a dinner lady at a local school.

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