Ukraine: How West Yorkshire community rallied together to help mum and three children fleeing Ukraine conflict

Adele Housley is helping Ukrainian families to settle in her community after fleeing the conflict. Julie Marshall reports on how people have supported one mother and her children.

When Ukrainian refugee Liliana Amelicheva arrived at the West Yorkshire home that members of her new community had come together to fit out for her family, she was moved to tears. Tears of gratitude at the act of kindness, and tears of relief that her children were safe.

Liliana and children George aged 15, 12-year-old Klim and Maria, five, were fleeing the fighting following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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The community in South Elmsall has supported Ukrainian Liliana Amelicheva and her children. Photo: Scott Merrylees

“One of my colleagues got in touch and asked if I could help their friend Liliana and her three children to come to the UK,” Adele says. “We got in touch with her and put the wheels in motion to bring her over.

“I suggested she head to Calais and she drove all the way there. We put her up in a hotel and then an apartment, paid for by donations from family and friends, while we sorted out the paperwork. As a single mother with three children she was given high priority status.”

The plan was that Adele and her husband Steve were going to house Liliana and her family in their spare room but then a house belonging to her mum Elaine Griffin became available in South Elmsall. But it was an empty shell after the previous tenants moved out and needed furnishing and decorating.

Adele and Liliana were able to sort out the visa requirements via the government website which went live on March 18. Adele then got a call to say Liliana was on the way and would be arriving within 48 hours.

It was then the community showed their true worth. Adele put out a call on Facebook and within hours they got four beds, sofas, a table and chairs, plates, cutlery, clothes, toiletries and toys. The Housley family bought a fridge freezer and cooker and a team of 12 volunteers spent a day working on the house, painting the walls and getting it ready for the refugees.

“I can’t believe how generous the community has been,” Adele says. “Thanks to everyone who donated we also have a garage full of baby clothes, nappies, towels and other things for families and their hosts to use.

“We live in a small mining town and the people who have helped the most are those who really can’t afford to help. That proves just what a wonderful area we live in.”

Adele says that when Liliana saw the house and what people had done she couldn’t stop crying. “She was so relieved her children were safe. She told us how they were dodging bombs and they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. People just don’t realise the truth of what is happening. When they arrived they only had the clothes they stood up in.”

Adele is also preparing to host a couple in her spare room and other members of her family are, between them taking in five refugee families. She’s also planning a series of Ukrainian barbecues at her home to help the refugees meet others who have fled.

“I just think if it was my family I would hope and pray that someone out of the kindness of their heart would help us,” she says. “It’s just so lovely to feel that you have helped someone in need.”

Liliana says: “We are so thankful for all the help from our new friends and neighbours. They have been so friendly and welcoming.”

Adele is pulling together a guide for anyone in the community who has questions about the process of welcoming a refugee in to their home. She can be contacted at [email protected]