On Saturday, 17 December 2022 a Graduation Day of the Ukrainian students of free English language classes run by our small local charity, The Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society (CamRuSS), with support from the South Cambridgeshire District Council, took place at St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church in Cambridge.
CamRuSS volunteers launched this project in April this year – when the first Ukrainians fleeing the war started arriving in Cambridge. Over 30 volunteers, who came from Norway, Canada, USA, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, as well as native British, were involved. During April-July CamRuSS delivered English classes to 90 students, which were supported by over 20 teachers and assistants.
From September Tanya Yurasova and her colleague Alla Viktorova have been managing the second ESOL course for Ukrainians launched with the support of South Cambridgeshire District Council. Over 90 students aged between 18 to 70 years old, all from diverse backgrounds – a 70-year-old university teacher from Kharkiv and an 18-year-old university student from Kyiv, a doctor, an architect, a bookkeeper and even a choir conductor – have been learning English in Cambridge to help them cope more easily with life in the UK.
To support Ukrainians further, CamRuSS held fortnightly information sessions on vital topics, such as education in the UK, banking and finance, driving and cycling, access to the NHS, job search and careers, access to benefits and food banks. A telephone support service in Russian and English was run by 18 volunteers.
“I am very grateful to CamRuSS for the precious help they provide to people who come from Ukraine. It is hard to imagine how we would have been able to cope with everyday issues that are part of normal life to a local resident”, says one of the Ukrainians who has recently moved to Cambridge.
Cambridgeshire residents and organisations came together to offer their expertise and help. St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church and Jesus College generously provided venues for the classes in central Cambridge over a period of three months. They became refuge hubs for new arrivals. Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum, Cambridge Sustainable Food and Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign shared information on accessing free food and daily essentials in Cambridge. The National Careers Service offered advice on the job market in the UK, The Scott Polar Research Institute offered free tours of its Museum, Churchill College Chapel hosted two fundraising events.
Tanya Yurasova, a licensed Cambridge tourist guide, offered free guided tours of Cambridge to Ukrainians and their hosts from early spring. Mark Thompson kindly allowed Ukrainian students of English access to his specialist online language course to encourage independent learning and help them improve their English skills needed for professional employment.
CamRuSS worked with Jesus College, enabling them to employ Ukrainians as support staff. To acknowledge this generous effort, the Master of Jesus College, Sonita Alleyne, hosted a dinner for the CamRuSS volunteers in September 2022. The College chef developed a special menu for this memorable occasion.
The Ukrainian crisis brought together people from different countries and cultural backgrounds living in the UK– where humanism and empathy are at the core of the country’s multicultural identity. “In my experience of living almost 20 years in the UK, this is an unprecedented case of people coming together in their joint effort to help new community members”, says Ksenia Afonina, CamRuSS Chair of Trustees.
We are grateful to Cambridge News, who published our press release on 14 December 2022. You may view the article here.