New Beginnings, Kendal, settle Ukrainian families to town

Ukrainian families who have found sanctuary in Kendal have spoken of the ‘unbelievable’ welcome they have received.

Kendal charity New Beginnings was started in 2000 by Patricia Harrison of Kendal, who is still actively involved in all aspects of the carity’s operation.

It has given shelter to Ukrainian orphans in a foster home in Kyiv it opened in 2004, and has so far helped three Ukrainian families to settle in the town.

Andrey Donskyy, long-time resident of Kendal and trustee of the charity, along with his wife Olesya, have been active in securing homes for the families from Kyiv, and has thanked the people of Kendal for their support.

“We are doing it as a charity, people are helping us financially, and we’d like to say thankyou to everyone that’s supporting us and helping us raise the money.

“A lot of these people have been escaping bombings and the kids are traumatised, so we’re working to help them, but the process of visa application was so long-winded and frustrating, that some have gone elsewhere, or have tried to go back home and rebuild their lives.

The Pysmennyi family have been the recipients of New Beginnings’ help, who launched a desperate rescue mission to help them at the request of their eldest son, who had already settled in Kendal through alternative means.

The Westmorland Gazette: REUNITED: The Pysmennyi family together in KendalREUNITED: The Pysmennyi family together in Kendal

“He contacted us in distress saying his family were due to arrive in England and said they were due in Cheshire, and their host pulled out the day before they left Poland, with no money, and flights provided by polish volunteers so all they had were the clothes on their back and tickets to England,” said Mr Donskyy.

“We rang our contacts and managed to secure a bungalow for them in Kendal, and with the owners’ help, managed to get it fully furnished for them in that one day.

“They speak no English and are furiously trying to learn.”

They arrived in the evening shell-shocked by the whole experience and said for the last few weeks, waiting for visas, they had 11 people living in a corridor in a building with no real facilities, sleeping on the floor.

“When they walked into the house in Kendal, for the first time they felt a sense of relief, and that they were safe,” he said.

“So now they are close to their son, settled in a comfortable house, and we are helping them with food, clothes, and everything they need, like wifi, school uniforms, doctors appointments etc.”

Oksana Matii and her 11-year old daughter Nadya have settled into a flat thanks to New Beginnings and while her husband has had to stay in Kyiv, Oksana said she is delighted to be here.

The Westmorland Gazette: TRAIN: Andrey collecting his grandma in Warsaw, where she was escorted by Oksana (left)TRAIN: Andrey collecting his grandma in Warsaw, where she was escorted by Oksana (left)

“Kendal is a very nice place, very lovely, the best place I can imagine – fresh air, great nature and a quiet place, which is what we need now,” she said.

“We left Kyiv on March 30 and arrived here on May 10. It was a very difficult decision to leave because close to us in Bucha, (a suburb of Kyiv) we heard many stories of people trying to flee and being killed by the Russians – every day we heard rockets and bombs.

READ MORE: ‘Whatever happens, we will find a way to help them’ – What the Russian threat means for Kendal charity

“On the train journey from Kyiv to Poland, our train was shot at, we had to keep all lights off and windows closed because of the danger.

“When we were in Poland my daughter became terrified when any aeroplane appeared, now I’m glad my daughter can’t hear them.

“It’s very difficult to be separated as a family but I never thought it could be possible to receive such support from the people in Kendal and New Beginnings.

“I can’t express my gratitude enough and my husband also feels better that he knows we are safe here.”

Andrey asked Oksana to escort Andrey’s 91-year old grandmother Lydia, who had resisted all previous attempts from Andrey for her to visit him in Kendal due to her age and health, to Warsaw, where Andrey then flew to pick her up.

She finally acceded to Andrey’s request to leave when Russian tanks were 20 miles from her home.

The Westmorland Gazette: GRANDMA: Andrey's grandma loves the LakesGRANDMA: Andrey’s grandma loves the Lakes

Andrey said: “Minutes before leaving she burned all of the letters and photographs of her late husband as she couldn’t bear the thought of Russian soldiers disrespecting his memory as she had lived through the horrors of World War II.

“It was touch and go whether she’d make it. But she’s now safe in our house in Kendal. 

“She loves it here, she’s sat outside in the sunshine today feeding the birds, she has befriended two wild ducks that came to the garden so she sits there and feeds them too.

“She loves the Lake District, enjoys seeing the lambs in the field, and really happy to be with us here.”

Yuliya Sinelnyk arrived here with her husband Yuri, and children Lisa, Sasha, and Sophia, and pet dog and cat, after having driven from Kyiv.

The Westmorland Gazette: FAMILY: Yuliya Sinelnyk and family, minus cat and dogFAMILY: Yuliya Sinelnyk and family, minus cat and dog

“I arrived last Thursday (May 11), after driving non-stop from Greece, where we had been for two weeks,” she said.

“We like Kendal very much. We are very active so we have loved exploring the area as a family. Today I went to St Thomas’ Primary School to enrol my children, they were lovely people.

“New Beginnings have organised everything – furniture, food, phones, wifi.
“We haven’t made any plans for the future yet, we have applied for three-year visas and want to work, but the most important thing for us is to keep our kids in a safe place. 

“It’s amazing to have had so much support here, it’s so emotional when you walk down the street here and see Ukrainian flags everywhere, even when we crossed the Eurotunnel into the UK, a British man met us who started to sing Ukrainian songs to us, it was unbelievable.”

To find out more about New Beginnings, or to donate, visit

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The Westmorland Gazette | News