Ukrainian families and hosts invited to mingle at monthly event at Northampton cafe

Saints Coffee set up ‘Ukrainians in Northampton’ in a bid to provide familiarity, guidance and comfort to those on the Homes for Ukraine scheme

By Megan Hillery
Friday, 17th June 2022, 8:15 am

A Northampton cafe has set up a monthly event to welcome Ukrainian families currently residing with local hosts.

Saints Coffee, located on St Giles Street, hosted the first ‘Ukrainians in Northampton’ event in May, with more than 40 Ukrainians and hosts in attendance.

The event enabled Ukrainians living with hosts in the community to come together, enjoy some traditional home-cooked Ukrainian food, make friends and ask questions so they can effectively integrate into UK life.

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The first Ukrainians in Northampton event, hosted by Saints Coffee, took place in May 2022.

Manager at Saints Coffee, Bohdan Bielousov, 28, said: “There was a mixture of emotions. They were happy to see the people who are from their own cities. It was a very emotional day how everyone spoke the same language and shared their experiences.”

Bohdan came to the UK from Ukraine several years ago to study at the University of Northampton, where he graduated around eight months ago.

His mother recently came to the UK to flee the ongoing war as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and she cooked borscht - a traditional Ukrainian soup - for the Ukrainians in Northampton meet-up at Saints Coffee.

Seeing Ukrainian refugees come to the UK under the scheme brought back memories for Bohdan from when he first arrived in the UK, which was what prompted him to set up the event.

Bohdan said: “I remember myself when I came to the UK first time and the process of getting the documents needed. I have been in those shoes before. I just felt it and I understand how difficult it is.

“We do get taught the English language in schools but not at the level we would like to be. I just felt that they would need support and I could help.”

Bohdan told The Chronicle & Echo that Ukrainians who attended the last event were able to access a lot of information such as how to set up a bank account, contacts for jobs matched to their profession, documentation required, local GPs and schools as well as parks for families to visit.

When asked what message Bohdan would give to Ukrainians in Northampton, he said: “Everyone is here to help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I know there is a language barrier but express yourself and come to me here if you need any help. Just be more open-minded and try to get involved as much as possible into UK culture.”

Given the success of this event, Saints Coffee has decided to schedule further casual meet-ups on Monday, June 20 and Monday, July 25.

Owner of Saints Coffee, Ben Francoise, said: “I hope it will give a bit of comfort for people coming out of difficult circumstances. It’s going to be very different for them so if we can bring some familiarity and comfort then that is the goal really.”

Anyone interested in attending the next Ukrainians in Northampton event is asked to meet at Saints Coffee on Monday, June 20 from 5pm until 8pm.