Ukraine refugees who fled war speak of joy on first day at new school in Forest Gate

The Kyrychenko brothers Vlad, 14 and Roman, 12, who fled Kyiv, met new classmates and teachers at their first lessons at the east London school last week.

Two Ukrainian schoolboy brothers who escaped the war have told of their joy as they spent their first day as pupils at an east London school.

The Kyrychenko family fled their home in Kyiv the day Russian forces invaded Ukraine last month.

After getting help from the Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, the family managed to get places at Cumberland Community School in Forest Gate.

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(Left to right) Mum Oksana Kyrychenko, Roman Kyrychenko, 12, Vlad Kyrychenko, 14, deputy head Amy Brown and history teacher Nicholas Penn. Credit: Ben Mole / SWNS

The eldest boys Vlad, 14 and Roman, 12, met new classmates and teachers at their first lessons at the east London school last week.

The pair were also given brand new uniforms, laptops and books, paid for by the school.

The school, part of the Community Schools Trust, is famed for helping students win scholarships to fee paying schools. It has helped more than 20 students win millions of pounds worth of places at top schools, including Eton College.

Mum Oksana visited the school when she was a student in her 20s.

She said: “For me, this is a big relief to have my children in this school.

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“I have been so nervous and upset since leaving Ukraine, but this is a big moment because they now have somewhere to go each day and have some normality.

“I cannot express my thanks for what this school and the people have done for our family. I didn’t expect all that they have given us. Laptops, uniforms and books, it is so much.

“I have said that my boys will be the most respectful best students at this school and will do their work. I will make sure of this as their mother.

“I can’t compare my life now here to my family and friends back home in Ukraine, who are sleeping in basements or on the floor in corridors with their children because they don’t want to be near the windows because of bombs.”

Amy Brown, deputy head, Roman Kyrychenko, 12, Oksana Kyrychenko, mum, and Vlad Kyrychenko,14. Credit: Ben Mole / SWNS

Dad Dmytro, who ran his own construction and manufacturing company in Kyiv, said: “It is very hard to imagine that I would ever be a refugee from my own country and living in another country after leaving Ukraine.

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“Now we are here we are so grateful for the support of the British people. They have been so kind: everywhere we have gone they have helped us.

“The mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, personally helped us which is how we are able to get into this great school.”

Oldest son Vlad said: “I can’t wait to start making friends, and I want to join the football team at this school. I think it will be the same as school in Ukraine.

“I will miss my friends at home, but I am sure I can make new friends here at this school. Everyone has been really nice to us so far.”

Roman added: “I am very happy to be given a place at such a nice school.

“My family are very happy to be in England and to be going to school.”

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Vlad Kyrychenko, 14, Roman Kyrychenko, 12, Omar Deria, headteacher, Oksana Kyrychenko, mum, with Timothy Kyrychenko, four, and Dmytro, dad. Credit: Ben Mole / SWNS

Cumberland Community School headteacher Omar Deria said the new students will get one-to-one English lessons, extra lessons to catch up on studies and support with well-being and mental health.

He said: “When we were asked to take students from Ukraine we did not hesitate, we offered our support straight away.

“These students will have a range of services available to them, whatever they need we can offer them. There will be personalised lessons in English to help them learn the language and catch up on classes.

“We will also have all the emotional support they need, counselling services are available on site at the school. This is not just the students but also their family.”

The boys’ younger brother, four-year-old Tymofii, will attend a local primary school.

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Rani Hossain (year 7), Antonio-Valentin Cranga (year 7), Amy Brown (dep head) and Roman Kyrychenko (12). Credit: Ben Mole / SWNS

The dad, who left before men were banned from leaving the country, had his own company which employed 20 members of staff. It manufactures and installs swimming pools for rich clients.

The family lived in a large flat in the centre of Kyiv, and enjoyed luxury holidays abroad twice a year, including ski trips and holidays in the Dominican Republic and Barcelona.

The children were at private school, and they had a holiday home 30 miles outside Kyiv.

However after Russia invaded they decided to flee, driving all the way to Calais from Ukraine, before getting a ferry to Dublin.

They then travelled to Belfast and on Liverpool, before driving to London in the car Then they took the ferry to Liverpool and drove to London, still in their Ukrainian car.

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They went to the Home Office building in Victoria where they sought asylum, and have since been staying in the Ibis Hotel in Customs House.

The manager at the hotel put them in touch with a volunteer who put them in touch with the mayor of Newham.

They were then assigned Cumberland Community School by the admissions team at Newham Council.

On leaving Ukraine, Dmytro said: “I left my mother and sister and niece and nephew, my wife left behind her family too.

“I wanted to get all of them out. My nephew is 23 and he has to stay to fight; my sister will not leave him behind.

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“Everyday we hear stories of families sleeping in corridors, in basements, anywhere away from the guns. Sirens go off seven or eight times a day.

“I feel so sad for the people left behind who are scared of losing their loved ones. The Russian army don’t care who they kill; children to them? It doesn’t matter.

“The children want to go home and be with their friends, but we don’t know if we have a home left. Lots of our friends are there, we don’t know what will happen.”

He added: “I am so grateful to the British government and people for their kindness and welcoming me here, but all I want to do is go home.

“I pray this war is over soon, but I don’t know.

“I spent 18 years building up my business. Every time I made anything I would put it into my business, but now all that money, all the hard work and the effort, and I don’t know what will happen.

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“Even though everything is very hard for me, I know for the people left behind it is so much harder. My family are safe, that is all that really matters.”

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