Town centre pub offers place for Ukrainian refugees setting up their new homes
The Plaza in Rugeley has opened its doors each Monday morning to provide a weekly community hub as a central meeting point and networking venue for those people making a new home in the town.
They and their hosts have been welcomed to come to the more private upstairs section of the Wetherspoons pub, with the pub putting on tea, coffee and squash, as well as colouring books for the younger members of the group.
It was created by pub manager Sian Siddall, who said she had been speaking to her friend Paul about his experiences hosting a Ukrainian family and decided to do something to help.
She said: “I volunteer at a local youth football team and Paul Sparkes is one of the new football coaches there.
“He mentioned about helping a Ukrainian family, the first in the area to do so, and the processes he went through to host them and now shares that invaluable knowledge with other families in the area, at the weekly Monday morning session at the pub.
“The group is growing in strength every week, as new families arrive, and word gets around. One family travelled from the next town when they heard about it.
“Paul helps with information about finding local jobs, schools for children, help with filling forms and information about benefits that maybe available.”
Mr Sparkes said the hub had been an invaluable way of getting people together and helping share information, having found the initial process of rehoming Alena and her children Alexander and Anastasia.
He said: “It’s been hard because of the language barrier as while the little boy has become best friends with my boy, the little girl has struggled and the mum is trying to learn the language, but it’s a massive roadblock.
“This hub has been invaluable as it’s helped everyone to come together and share information, such as a woman who came here on the train and we were able to explain to her how to do it.
“It’s a safety net for them as they learn from each other and are travelling together and learning together and that’s thanks to Sian, as there’s nothing else to get them together apart from this.”
Oksana Kiptiak was one of the group to relocate to Rugeley, moving over with her daughter Liza, but leaving her husband Vitalii back in Kyiv.
The 35-year-old said she had been in the town for three weeks with her hosts Graham and Gillian Jones and had found the people to be welcoming and the hub as a valuable place for everyone.
She said: “Since I came here, everyone has been very friendly and ready to help us since we left Kyiv and Graham and Gillian have made us so welcome, with a house and a big garden.
“The hub is really helpful and I will keep coming here until I find work as it’s great to hear the Ukrainian language and be able to exchange information and shared experiences about something I might know about, but someone else doesn’t”.
Graham Jones also said the hub was valuable for those there to be able to speak to each other in their own language and said it had been good to be able to help Oksana and her daughter.
He said: “This has been good to help them as we have a big house and have tried to make it as comfortable as possible for them.
“This hub is great as they can talk to each other and speak about what problems they have and what they can do to help each other.”
The Hub runs every Monday from 10am at the Plaza Wetherspoons at 27 Horse Fair in Rugeley.