‘Please don’t forget us’ – Welsh Parliament stages solidarity with Ukraine event

Ukrainians, host families and dignitaries gathered in the Senedd to mark one year since the Russian conflict began.

Bronwen Weatherby
Monday 27 February 2023 18:20 GMT
The Welsh Senedd held an event to show solidarity with Ukraine (Alamy/PA)
The Welsh Senedd held an event to show solidarity with Ukraine (Alamy/PA)

Dozens of Ukrainians, host families and dignitaries from across Wales have gathered at the Welsh Parliament to show continuing support for Ukraine more than a year on since the Russian invasion.

The peace and solidarity for Ukraine event was held at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Monday and heard from a number of speakers.

Minister for social change Jane Hutt told Ukrainian guests: “This is your home for as long as you need it.”

The leader of the Ukrainian Catholic community in the UK, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, relayed a request from those still stuck inside the conflict: “Please, please do not forget us.”

Please, please continue to support us. We need your help. Only together we can make Ukraine victorious in 2023

Svitlana Phillips, Voice of Ukraine Wales

In an emotional speech, Svitlana Phillips, from Voice of Ukraine Wales, urged people to continue supporting Ukraine, and said: “We hope one day that we can repay you.”

Ms Phillips said: “The past year has been a rollercoaster of emotions for each of us.

“Fear, anger, pride, hope and, of course, gratitude and appreciation for the kindness, love and hospitality we’ve received.

“But please, please continue to support us. We need your help. Only together we can make Ukraine victorious in 2023.”

Also at the event were the Senedd speaker, Elin Jones, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General Mick Antoniw, the Lord Mayor of Cardiff Councillor Graham Hinchey and the High Sheriff of South Glamorgan Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds.

Musician sisters Kateryna and Lisa Kalianova played traditional songs to attendees before and after the ceremony.

Speaking afterwards, mother-of-one, Lana Kovalova, who found sanctuary for herself, her son and mother with a family in Chepstow, South Wales, said she had been in tears listening to the speakers.

“It was very emotional for us and we cried because it’s very hard for us all the time, we’re so worried about what’s going to happen,” Ms Kovalova said.

She said she left Ukraine to protect her 11-year-old son, Matvii, after continued air strikes had made the country too dangerous.

“It was a hard decision for us to leave, but it is no place for children right now,” she added.

“We now feel supported and safe. We have a beautiful family and we’re trying to live and be happy.

“And we can do this because of the support of your country and your people.”

It's been an absolute pleasure to have them in my home

Caroline Harvey

The family’s hosts Caroline and Alex Harvey said they would encourage others to open their homes to Ukrainian refugees.

Mrs Harvey said: “If you’ve got a room, think about a family that could be in there warm, safe and no longer having to run.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to have them in my home.

“The whole experience I feel has changed me, I feel a better person.”

Rosemary Toll, who lives in Pentrefelin, Gwynedd, North Wales, had a similar message.

The law lecturer at Aberystwyth University and her husband John, a software engineer, have had three generations of one family living with them since May last year.

She said: “If you are somebody who has been thinking about sponsoring but thinks maybe ‘nobody is looking for a sponsor now, the war started a year ago’, I’d say there’s probably more need than ever right now for people to open their homes.

“We must not forget that as things progress and worsen in different cities, towns and regions, that people will want, naturally, to find safety.”

Despite saying it was “nerve-racking” to begin with she said the benefit has been to be able to make a “real difference”.

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