Town’s Ukrainian community marks second year of the war

MOMENT OF REFLECTION: An event marking two years since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine took place at St Mary’s Ukrainian School in Skinner’s Kent Academy (SKA) on Saturday February 23. Students and families were joined by Mayor Hugh Patterson, Mayoress Sandra Patterson, Councillor Hugo Pound, TWBC Chief Executive William Benson and SKA Principal Hannah Knowles

The Ukrainian community of Tunbridge Wells came together last weekend with an event to mark two years since the start of the Russian invasion.

The event on February 24 was held at St Mary’s Ukrainian School which opened on the site of Skinner’s Kent Academy (SKA) in April 2023 and now supports over 70 Ukrainian children in the town.

Wearing traditional Ukrainian vyshyvanka dress and surrounded by children’s versions of well-known Ukrainian paintings, families joined to sing their national anthem, remember those they had lost and share their love for Ukraine.

Rimma Tertytska, Setting Manager of St Mary’s Ukrainian School, said that while she wished the event didn’t have to happen, local Ukrainians were determined to ‘rebuild the map’.

“Two years of full-scale invasion and 10 years of the Russian-Ukrainian war and we’re hurting.

“We’re coming together to support each other; we’re finding a shoulder to cry on but we’re also persevering and we’re finding hope, and we know that we’re going to fight until we win.

“This is a message to the world and to ourselves that we’re still going strong, and we’re prepared to continue as long as it takes,” she explained.

The community was joined by Tunbridge Wells Mayor Hugh Patterson and Mayoress Sandra Patterson, Councillor Hugo Pound, and William Benson, Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC).

Speaking to the Times, Mayor Patterson said: “I think it’s very important to show support, it’s obviously a very sad anniversary.

“This was a very moving ceremony that took place, so I am pleased the community of Tunbridge Wells has been able to support the Ukrainian community with the provision of the school.

“We wish them all the very best for the future and hopefully it won’t be too long before they’re back home.”

The school site has been given for St Mary’s to use every weekend free of charge, with SKA Principal Hannah Knowles calling the decision a ‘no-brainer’.

“For us, it’s just about making sure that there is a space in the town that can be a local space for students to make sure they have an opportunity to celebrate their culture, to make sure they have their lessons in their home language and just feel part of their community at a particularly difficult time,” she said.

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