Refugees and volunteers join forces in Sutton Coldfield to help Ukraine celebrate Christmas

Twenty-five Ukrainian refugees from Coleshill Manor joined other volunteers for a Ukrainian Christmas like no other
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We may be a couple of weeks into a new year in Birmingham, but it’s still Christmas in Ukraine and refugees and volunteers in Sutton Coldfield have been working together to help the war torn country to celebrate by sending parcels.

Christmas in Ukraine is a long affair - it is timed using the Julian calendar, with Christmas eve falling on January 6 and the Feast of Epiphany on January 19.

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There is a large Ukrainian community in the West Midlands from before the war started, and many refugees who were displaced by the war have been living here for several months.

Some Ukrainians celebrated by caroling, with Centrala - a centre for Central and Eastern European art and artists - in Jewellery Quarter hosted Malanka - which is the Ukrainian traditional caroling event - on January 13.

Meanwhile, 25 Ukrainian refugees from Sutton Coldfield joined volunteers in an emergency food packing day to send parcels home in time for the end of Christmas celebrations.

Twenty-five Ukrainian refugees - who fled their country mired in conflict and now live in Coleshill Manor in Sutton Coldfield -volunteered at an event organised by a charity on Saturday (January 14) in Coventry.

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The packing event was timed to coincide with the Ukrainian Christmas celebrations which end on January 19 - celebrated as Baptism of Jesus Day. Traditionally, on January 19, people in Ukraine would go swimming or take baths in ice holes on the rivers for water consecration.

Coleshill Manor, the former disused office complex in Sutton Coldfield, was redeveloped last year to rehome the refugees who, for the past eight months, have been supported and cared for by Mosaic Church, Coventry.

What the Ukrainian refugees said

One of the Ukrainian refugees, Oleg Mayyukhov, moved to the UK from Kyiv six months ago after his wedding. Officially married before the war, he and his wife planned for the wedding itself to be in Kyiv in May 2022 but had to change their plans and got married in Brussels where his wife’s family was displaced to.

Oleg said: “The UK is doing so much for Ukraine. It was one of the first countries to react to this conflict and offered support and we want to help Ukrainian people too and this is our way of contributing because we love our country.

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“This brings at least some help for 500 families. It’s more than just bringing food, it’s a big message of hope. Even those people who had to leave the country are still with Ukraine.

Oleg MayyukhovOleg Mayyukhov
Oleg Mayyukhov

“Everyone here is full of enthusiasm and encouraged and it’s a privilege for us to be able to make this contribution. We’ve been living as one community at Coleshill Manor for a while which helps us work better together.”

Another refugee, Alina Kozina, said she has been here since June with her mother and five siblings. Their homes were destroyed and they lost many of their friends.

She said: “It was terrible times. I really respect Ukrainian volunteers and I wanted to be part of this. It’s also good to help people. It doesn’t matter who they are, Ukrainian or African. We believe in our heart that everything will be OK.”

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Led by volunteers from Feed the Hungry charity, 500 parcels, each containing a mix of milk, cereal, coffee, pasta, pasta sauce, passata, juice, flour, tinned peaches, rice pudding and tinned vegetables, were packed on Saturday.

Food parcels for UkraineFood parcels for Ukraine
Food parcels for Ukraine

What the organisers said

Coleshill Manor Project Manager Neil McElvenny said: “Working in collaboration with Warwickshire County Council we manage the Manor as a shared accommodation with supportive living, we assist our Ukrainian friends working together to help integration into the local community, with schools admissions and find work to help support their families here and in the Ukraine.    

He added: “This small contribution is supporting their fellow Ukrainians still living in a war zone which is very challenging as the winters in the Ukraine are traditionally very cold experiencing anything from -4 to – 15+ without heating and lighting is beyond our imagination and we can only guess how difficult this is!

Feed The Hungry Director Canon Gavin Kibble MBE, said: “Over the last year Feed the Hungry has been involved with supplying humanitarian aid directly into the Ukraine, Romania and Moldova to support Ukrainian refugees. Locally, we have supported many Ukrainian families through our Warwickshire based pantries with both food and clothes.

Food parcels for Ukraine being packed by refugees who want to help their friends back home Food parcels for Ukraine being packed by refugees who want to help their friends back home
Food parcels for Ukraine being packed by refugees who want to help their friends back home
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“One of team, Chloe Scanlon, who works at our Lillington Pantry suggested this packing event as part of the Ukrainian Christmas celebrations and this idea was has been taken up by a large community of Ukrainians living at Coleshill Manor.”

People can support this effort by sponsoring either a full pallet or a number of food parcels. Donations will help to provide resource and defray the cost of shipping in order to get the parcels to people who have lost everything.

Further information about how to support these events or donate, can be found on Feed the Hungry website.

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