06:00AM, Friday 06 May 2022
A young couple preparing to welcome a family of Ukrainian refugees to their home in Twyford have been overwhelmed by support received from the local community.
After reaching out through several village-based social media groups a long wishlist of essential items needed to get a single mum of two established in the UK was quickly narrowed down to zero.
Within days of posting the need for beds, linen, toys, clothes, furniture and play items Aleksandra and Glenn Sheasby and their three children had enough supplies to start readying two bedrooms and an ensuite for their
“My list was very specific,” said Aleksandra, who is
originally from Poland.
“That’s what I am like. Very Polish in my nature of organising. Leave nothing unplanned; try and put everything in place.”
Local offers of help from cleaners to van drivers and donations of lifestyle items and essential equipment have helped Aleksandra do just that.
“Everyone wants to help in whatever way the can. Many wish they could host but if they couldn’t do that, they have come forward with donations. That’s what Twyford is like.”
Some of the donations surprised the Sheasbys – such as a full dinnerware set with a hidden gesture inside.
“I was worried that I didn’t have enough plates,” Aleksandra said.
“So I put out a message and a local lady contacted me and offered the most beautiful set of dishes. It was so lovely I offered to pay for it but she insisted on donating it, and some cutlery, and when she dropped the parcel off she had included a supermarket shopping card. People have been so kind.”
The family from Ukraine will stay with the Sheasbys and their three young children for a period of six months under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Over 100 homes across the Wokingham Borough will welcome approximately 250 refugees.
It’s been a fairly long process but the final bits have come together quickly.
Aleksandra said: “As soon as the war started I heard from Polish friends and a friend in Germany about helping refugees and I said to my husband that we had to help and he agreed.
“I then spoke to my children. My eldest, seven, had concerns as he is on the spectrum (worried about communication mainly) and the children naturally had questions about the space we were giving up but once we started telling them about the families in need and we talked with the family on the phone they were very empathetic and agreed to cope with fewer rooms in the house.
“They are prepared to be welcoming and flexible.
“The visa application took several weeks and during that time our two families spent lots of time getting to know each other online and we bonded straight away.
“I felt the need to be honest about our home (it can get a little noisy at times, which not everyone likes) yet the mother was drawn to our offer because it sounded authentic, a real family home. She has two children, an 11-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy - the same age as our eldest child.”
After the pandemic and the atrocities of war, Aleksandra feels people are kinder.
Her visiting family have been through an ordeal – fleeing Kyiv as shelling fell around and travelling by car through Hungary and into Augsburg, Germany, where they awaited confirmation that the Sheasbys had settled the visa applications on their behalf.
Aleksandra said: “I am ready for tears but I am also ready for realness and a happy family life, which we will give them.
“People have often said to me that being in my home, seeing me sitting there knitting makes them feel
welcome and at ease – we have warm hearts and the flexibility in our home to offer.
“There is a saying in
Poland, ‘a guest in the house is a God in the house’ and that is very true. We will look after them and we will benefit from having them with us, too.”
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