Borough joins local Ukraine community in marking national Independence Day
Guests and hosts taking part in the Homes for Ukraine programme in Great Yarmouth have joined with civic leaders this afternoon to mark Ukraine Independence Day.
Today, Wednesday, 24 August, is exactly six months since Russia's invasion, and 31 years since declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Around 40 people marked the occasion at Munchies café on Great Yarmouth's seafront, which regularly hosts weekly community socials for the Ukraine community.
They were joined by deputy mayor Cllr Penny Carpenter, council leader Cllr Carl Smith, Labour group leader Cllr Trevor Wainwright, housing and neighbourhoods committee chairman Emma Flaxman-Taylor, and chief executive Sheila Oxtoby.
The event saw the community stand for the Ukraine national anthem and a prayer for the nation, as well as share traditional Ukrainian cuisine, surrounded by the national flag, sunflowers, and the balloons and bunting in blue and yellow.
Alona Prykhodina gave a speech in which she gave thanks for the generosity of the Great Yarmouth community.
"This is an important day in our country, the day of our independence. I am very glad we can share this day with all of you. It's very sad we all meet because a war broke out in Ukraine. Great Britain has become our main friend and supporter in this difficult time.
"I arrived four months ago and during this time I have received great from the state and the people of this country. I want to say a big thank you from all Ukrainians in this area. You opened your house and your hearts to Ukrainians."
Munchies owner Mark Allen, who himself is a host within the Homes for Ukraine scheme said he was delighted to help guests find friends so far away from home.
"We saw what was happening in Ukraine and we were in a position and with the space to help, so we volunteered to host a guest. It's not always been easy, for us or the guests, but we are happy to do it.
"When we first had our guest the local councils were holding drop in sessions at Great Yarmouth Library to share information and support, but it was obvious as soon as two Ukranians were together they wanted to talk and meet socially.
"I said in April to come along on a Tuesday morning for a tea and coffee, and that's what has happened. It has been great for new people to come and have people they can talk to, in their own language, and get tips on how to settle in."
Council leader Carl Smith said: "In Great Yarmouth we have long had lots of people from different countries and cultures and what we want to do is to help people feel welcome and be part of our local community.
"It is really difficult for our Ukraine guests who have had to leave their homes and loved ones behind, without knowing when they might seem them again. It has been fabulous to be able to spend time with them today."
Great Yarmouth Borough Council is also marking the day by flying the Ukranian flag at the Town Hall, and lighting up key buildings in the borough in blue and yellow.