Ukrainian refugee says son moved schools four times in a year as she calls for ‘more help for kids’

Ukrainian photographer Tetiana with her family  (Supplied)
Ukrainian photographer Tetiana with her family (Supplied)

A Ukrainian mother who fled to the UK after Russia’s invasion is calling for better support for refugee children after her eight-year-old son shifted between four schools in a year.

Tetiana moved to the UK in May 2022 and was hosted by a family in Winchester.

She is one of 2,804 Ukrainians who have arrived in the county of Hampshire since the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme began last year, Home Office figures published on Thursday reveal.

More than 80,500 Ukrainians in total have arrived in the UK under the visa scheme and almost 100,000 visas have been issued.

But Tetiana found it difficult to find a new host family after her initial six-month arrangement came to an end at the end of last year.

The photographer eventually found a family near Winchester who she and her son could spend Christmas with, but it meant he had to move schools yet again.

Speaking to the Standard at an International Rescue Committee (IRC) event, the photographer said the constant change has been tough.

“Because we moved, he was not eligible for the school [so] he needed to change once again. It will be school number four for that year.

“He is making new friends, he is okay to go anywhere with me, but it’s not normal to move, move, move and change schools three or four times a year.”

Tetiana said she has managed to learn some English by volunteering for the local council, but she wants her son to be able to speak English better.

“We would ask for more help for kids. Some additional English for kids would be helpful.

“Some lessons at school maybe, some teachers who can speak both languages, could help them because [Ukrainian] kids would like to stay.

“For now it seems everyone would like to stay for some kind of period.”

Even with some English language skills under her belt, Tetiana has found it difficult to obtain full-time work in the UK and maintain a sense of structure.

“Job Centre was asking me why I hadn’t got a job. How could I? I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow,” she explained.

“Of course I don’t have [work] experience, because I just came [to the UK].”

The mother said she was working two jobs in Ukraine as a brand business manager and photographer, who had jobs booked months in advance.

“I was working as a photographer so I was booking sessions six months in advance for big clients.

“I did have a plan, that was our life. I had a brilliant life. Everything was okay before the Russians came and decided they could do the war.”

Tetiana said many other Ukrainians are also struggling to find a hosts in the UK to live with after their initial host arrangement finished.

There’s currently a backlog of refugees requesting to live in London but not enough hosts, amid a housing shortage in the capital and a cost of living crisis.

Tetiana, who now supports Winchester City Council as a translator for newly arrived refugees, said “a lot” of refugees are “stuck in cities”, waiting for a permanent home.

“We need to have translators because a lot of Ukrainians need to communicate with councils and we don’t have any Ukrainian speakers.

“We need to explain in the village it is also alive and can also be an option [to live].”

In October the Standard revealed that host numbers in London were dwindling, with individual guests waiting for about six weeks for a match in London, family groups might be waiting months and, in some cases, indefinitely, according to charities.