THE Ukrainian flag flew at Wiltshire’s administrative base last week to mark 12 months since the beginning of the Russian invasion.
Since the war began, on February 24 last year, a total of 1,345 Ukrainian guests have arrived safely in the county under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
More than 440 Ukrainian children have started at Wiltshire schools – with 220 primary and 224 secondary aged children settling into their new settings.
Wiltshire Council’s Family and Community Learning team has been offering adults ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Language) courses, with more than 200 learners enrolled to date.
As families have become more settled, guests have been looking to find more permanent surroundings, with around 125 families moving into their own private rented accommodation.
The Homes for Ukraine team has also helped to facilitate 53 rematches into new host accommodation.
Charities and volunteers have been a backbone of the Wiltshire support with around 18 community hubs and support groups across Wiltshire, including Salisbury, Devizes, Marlborough and Trowbridge.
Regular meetings, events and activities take place so Ukraine guests feel a part of their local community and to ensure refugees and host families can access support as required.
Cllr Richard Clewer, leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “This is a difficult anniversary to mark as we know the last 12 months have been the hardest for Ukraine families who have left their homes and had to make new lives elsewhere.
“Last year we welcomed Ukraine guests knowing our residents would step up and provide the welcome they deserve.
“Wiltshire responded to the situation in Ukraine and so many welcomed the guests into their homes and helped them to settle into the county.
“Our teams, communities and partners have worked hard to try and ensure that this has been an easier transition with the right level of support for those who have needed our help.”
Cllr Clewer said many were now laying down roots in the county, but more volunteer hosts would be welcomed.
“We are now at a point where some families are moving out of sponsor homes into their own homes and into employment and laying foundations in Wiltshire with the continued support of our teams,” he said.
“The Homes for Ukraine scheme relies on the generosity and goodwill of Wiltshire residents, and while some guests are moving on to their own homes, we are still in need of more sponsors.
“Becoming a host is a big commitment for those involved but makes a massive difference to the Ukrainian people coming into Wiltshire.
“Anyone who thinks that this is something they might be able to offer, I would encourage people to sign up as potential hosts at Homes for Ukraine, via www.gov.uk.”
A national moment of reflection took place at 11am on Friday to mark the start of the invasion, with Cllr Clewer saying the flying of the flag at the council offices in Trowbridge was ‘a tribute to the courage of the Ukrainian people’.