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Bay Tree Café in Bury St Edmunds offers support to Ukrainian refugees



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Upstairs in a Bury St Edmunds café a group of women, and one young man, were busy swapping phone numbers on scraps of paper and napkins over freshly baked pastries and cups of coffee.

They were Ukrainian refugees attending the Bay Tree Café’s coffee morning for those who have fled the war-torn country.

The coffee morning started on May 9 by café owner Nicky Richmond and refugee host, Emily Sloman, as a support network for refugees to get help from translating forms to finding work, or general information about services.

Every Monday Ukrainian refugees can attend Bay Tree Cafe's coffee morning. Picture: Tamika Green
Every Monday Ukrainian refugees can attend Bay Tree Cafe's coffee morning. Picture: Tamika Green

Two people who attended were 48-year-old Larysa Taranenko and her 17-year-old nephew, Pavlo Korol who arrived in Bury three weeks ago.

Larysa, an English teacher from Kyiv, had to leave her husband behind because he was drafted into the army, and Pavlo’s mother also had to stay to look after the business she inherited from her father.

It wasn’t an easy decision for the pair, but with the constant threat of air attacks they decided to travel by road to the Polish border and ultimately settle in the UK with a host family.

Larysa Taranenko and her 17-year-old nephew, Pavlo Korol, arrived in Bury St Edmunds three weeks ago. Picture: Tamika Green
Larysa Taranenko and her 17-year-old nephew, Pavlo Korol, arrived in Bury St Edmunds three weeks ago. Picture: Tamika Green

Larysa said: "Our lives have stopped - we’re somewhere in between. But there is such a warm and cosy atmosphere here and we are so grateful to everyone. When we see Ukrainian flags in windows we feel people support us.

"We come to the coffee morning, we are filled with information and then throughout the week we live our lives."

Pavlo added: "It's a wonderful place and I get a chance to meet my Ukrainian compatriots.

"It was tough travelling from my home. As we got to the airport, we unfortunately saw all the atrocities made by the Russian soldiers. All the buildings and houses were destroyed. War is terrible, it's terrifying."

Refugee host Emily Sloman, and café owner Nicky Richmond. Picture: Tamika Green
Refugee host Emily Sloman, and café owner Nicky Richmond. Picture: Tamika Green

Another person among the attendees was Marina Kralina, a woman of Russian heritage who is also one of the organisers of the Multicultural Women's Group Bury St Edmunds. As a resident of the town for 20 years, she was there to translate and offer help.

She said: "I can speak Russian so I can translate things to the Ukrainian people. We went to the doctor's surgery and I helped to translate there.

"The Multicultural Women's Group is always helping people who have just come to Bury. In our group we have people from different countries. It was always our idea to help refugees so we have helped Afghan refugees and now it's a big group of Ukrainian people."

The coffee morning runs every Monday morning from 9am until 11am and has grown significantly since it started.

Emily Sloman said: "It’s become much more than simply a coffee morning and a place to meet. We’ve had a pregnant mum who needs a pushchair and car seat and we’ve had people able to source things. We let people write down questions or things that they need information for."

For Nicky Richmond, who owns the café with her husband Mark, this was their way of doing something for the cause.

"The one thing that we could offer was a quiet space for people to meet up, talk in their own language and a chance to find friends," she said.

The group are now looking for people who would be willing to give lifts or offer work to the refugees, as well as hear from transport companies who could take the group on trips out.

For more information visit the Bay Tree website here or find the Ukrainian Refugees Host and Guests - BSE and local area on Facebook.