A CHARITY in Cornwall organized a special trip and picnic for a number of Ukrainian families who sought refuge after the war in Cornwall.
At the kind invitation of Lady St Levan, the Cornwall Hugs charity brought together 14 Ukrainian refugee families and their Cornish hosts to visit the island and castle of St Michael’s Mount.
Before heading to the causeway, Cornwall Hugs invited the group to take part in a moving act of solidarity, creating a giant 10m long Ukrainian flag to be placed against the iconic Cornish landmark.
Despite the brisk Cornish wind, the Ukrainian guests sang their national anthem, with passionate voices of adults and children echoing through the sand.
Mousehole.” alt=”Falmouth Packet: Families came from as far away as St Austell, Truro and Newquay as well as across the bay at Mousehole.” class=”editor-image”/>
The group had been asked to bring a picnic, and once on the island they were met by Lord and Lady St Levan at a specially arranged picnic area.
The hosts chatted with the families for over an hour, listening intently to their personal stories, visibly moved by the families’ connection and joy at the opportunity to spend time together in such a beautiful place.
One of the association’s guests, Natalia Kuzmenko, a mother of three, gave an idea of what it’s like to live here in safety with the constant worries of their men in Ukraine.
She spoke of her brother, who is fighting to defend his country, saying: “We don’t count days, we count calls – every day we just wait for the phone call to know he’s okay.
“We want to say thank you to your whole country for accepting us here and for your great help for all Ukrainians and the chance to escape here from the terrible situation in our country.
“Thank you for bringing us here to see your island and your castle.”
Before the picnic, there was a short period of thanksgiving led by Cornwall Hugs and guests.
Lady St Levan then addressed the guests, saying: “We just wanted to say that we think you are amazing.
“We hope peace will come soon and you will all be reunited with your loved ones.”
After the picnic, the group made their way to the old castle bearing a Ukrainian and Cornish flag and regrouped again at the foot of the Mount for a complementary ice cream, courtesy of Lord and Lady St Levan.
Ksenia came with her son David, four, her niece Natalia, 20, and her 80-year-old mother Lilia.
She was moved to tears after the visit and said, “I still can’t believe someone would do this for us, welcome us into their country like complete strangers and invite us in that way.”
“It’s an amazing, beautiful place.
“I’ve been to France, to Mont St Michel, but this one impressed me so much because this one is huge, it’s very well maintained, it’s so beautiful.
“I wish I had more time to explore all the masterpieces inside.
“Thank you very much for this opportunity, we appreciate it so much!”
The visit came after Lady St Levan contacted Cornwall Hugs founder Esmé Page with the offer of tickets to visit the island for Ukrainian families.
Within two hours of posting an invitation just over a week before, on the Cornwall Hugs facebook, the trip was sold out with families coming from as far away as St Austell, Truro and Newquay as well as l across the bay to Mousehole.
Esmé Page said: “We are very grateful to Lord and Lady St Levan and the whole Mount team.
“They gave us the warmest of welcomes and it meant so much to the families that they spent time getting to know them and learning about their individual situations.
“I felt that St Levan’s discreetly offered our guests something more precious than the invitation itself – the gift of being seen and heard.
“For adults, it was, I think, just as important as the wonder and joy of a bit of respite and fun in such a beautiful place.”