AS the war in Ukraine continues to rage, many Ukrainians are still either looking for a host family to stay with, or to move on to their next. Since the initial wave of hosts, the flow of people signing up has gradually diminished, but the Ukrainians’ need for help has not.

In a renewed push for hosts in the Homes for Ukraine scheme in Teignbridge, we get a sense of what it’s like for both sides. We talk to two host couples from Moretonhampstead and their Ukrainian guests, to see what life is like in this unusual yet highly rewarding arrangement.

In this second report, we meet Jenny Bates and Alan Murgheroyd who hosted Iryna Skrypka and her 15-year-old daughter Myroslava.

LEAVING Ukraine was a quick decision for Iryna Skrypka, after seeing Russian tanks from her 16th-floor apartment in Vyshhorod, Kyiv.

‘We had felt it coming, but could not believe it at all. We woke up around 5 in the morning when we heard the sounds of explosions. After staying a week in the school basement we took an evacuation train to Western Ukraine,’ Iryna remembered.

‘This train transported four to five times more people than usual. Some of us were sitting in the cold wagon corridor all night.’

However, Iryna’s trip to Moretonhampstead was complicated by two special passengers: a guinea pig named Mr Martin and a cat called Sasha, pets that her daughter and sister refused to leave behind.

After several refugee camps across three countries, Iryna and Myroslava made it to Sweden, where they learned about the Homes for Ukraine Programme and met Jenny Bates and Alan Murgheroyd. Battling through a never-ending stream of documents and visa applications, and almost losing it all at the last minute, the pair made it to Moretonhampstead, cat and guinea pig still in attendance.

Iryna said: ‘I was very different from where we lived because I lived almost all my life in the capital. It was also difficult to understand the real English language cause it differs from the one you learn from the books.’

However, Iryna soon learned perhaps too much of Devon’s colloquialisms through starting a job at Moreton’s White Hart Hotel with Myroslava and her sister. Myroslava is at both Ukrainian school and South Dartmoor, still coming top of the class in maths. A promising artist, she even painted Alan for his birthday.

Iryna said: ‘I can’t even name all the things they’ve done for us. I lost my dad a year before the war started, Alan reminds us of him. I know he is a different person but his presence in our lives is very supportive.’

Alan added: ‘I see Myroslava almost as a granddaughter now.

‘By doing this, I’ve been enriched in my experience of life. It’s a fantastic experience and it continues to be so, it’s really become a part of our lives.’

If you’d like more information about either linking up with someone in Ukraine or ‘re-matching’ with someone already in England, contact Jane and Ali at Teignbridge Community and Voluntary Services (CVS) at [email protected], who can provide further information.