A NESTON husband and wife have welcomed a mother and her nine-year-old son into their home after they fled from the war in Ukraine.

Heidi Spring-Jones and her husband Roger Jones, decided to host the Ukrainian refugees after seeing the heart-breaking scenes on the news.

She said: “We both said, ‘we can’t both just sit here and watch, we’ve got to do something’.

“We discussed it for a week and a half as it’s not just changing someone else’s life, it’s also changing ours. We kept coming back to the conclusion that our inconvenience is nothing to what those people are going through and at that point we put in an application to the government.”

Hosting a refugee 

After joining various Facebook groups, 31-year-old Julia from Ukraine wrote to Heidi.

Julia originally comes from Kharkiv, where she lived with her parents and grandmother. After some time, the whole family fled to the West of Ukraine, where her parents and grandmother stayed. Julia then moved on to Warsaw in Poland, where she was for four weeks before fleeing to Heidi’s home in the UK.

The pair put in Julia’s visa application and the visa was through in a week. At that time, Julia was in a refugee centre in Warsaw with her son and after some difficulty she eventually booked a flight.

The airline company ‘Wizz air’ only allowed one piece of baggage per customer, however, Julia and her son had two bags each, meaning they had to leave two behind.

Heidi explained that she has since tried to get the bags back.

She said: “I tried to organise a taxi in Poland to take the two bags to meet a coach and it missed the coach by five minutes. The taxi driver has since returned the bags to the refugee centre.

“If there’s anybody out there who goes to Poland regularly, please get in touch as I need those two bags. She really has nothing.”

The retired lecturer praised the people at Neston-based charity ‘Refugee Assist’. She explained that within an hour or day, they receive the items they’ve requested.

The trauma of what is happening in Ukraine

In talking about Julia’s mental state, Heidi discussed the trauma the events of the war have left her with.

She said: “Julia hasn’t arrived yet, lets put it that way. I don’t think she’s in the position to make any long-term plans, I don’t think she’s got her head round this either. She very clearly suffers from traumatic stress, it’s not even post-traumatic stress.

“She phones her mum every day because they’ve gone back to Kharkiv now, but that causes her great anxiety, because yes Kharkiv might be safe at the minute, but she doesn’t trust that.”

Currently, Heidi is searching for a part-time job for Julia, to improve her English, and to give her some structure in her day-to-day life. Julia’s son now attends Neston Primary School, which has given him the structure he needs.

Wirral Globe: Julia and her son visiting ChesterJulia and her son visiting Chester

The community coming together

On his first day, the school had everything in dual language and held up a sign in Ukrainian saying, ‘Welcome to Neston Primary School’. The children also collected their pocket money and gave it to him.

The son also had a skateboard in his bag that got left in Warsaw. So, Chris Young from Refugee Assist put a request out on Twitter for a skateboard.

Within 10 minutes, Eunice Huthart, a scouser, commonly known as ‘Blaze’ from the TV  show Gladiators said she would give him one. She not only sent him two skateboards, but she also sent a big box of chocolates, and a huge hamper for Julia.

A group of Neston locals hosting Ukrainian refugees, which Heidi is a part of, have a WhatsApp group where they talk and communicate and have a get together every so often.

Heidi explained: “Unfortunately, lots of sponsors are now pulling out because they see the reality of it. It isn’t easy opening up your home.

“Julia’s been here for two and a half weeks, and I’ve done absolutely nothing else but sort out appointments. I don’t mind that, it’s what I’ve signed up for. But you’ve also got to deal with someone who has lots of ups and downs.”

Heidi expressed her appreciation for the local council, CWAC. She explained that it took a few hours from when Julia arrived in the UK to receive her £400 from the government.

She said: “My plea now would be please people if you have thought about doing it, just do it. Yes, it’s inconvenient but when you think you need some time out, look at the bigger picture.

“The people who volunteered straight off, they have their guests now, but now the masses of people left need hosting.”

To get involved and register your interest to host a Ukrainian refugee, please click here