By Helen Horscroft
A family who fled war-torn Ukraine are adjusting to a quieter normal life in Nailsworth.
For the Bruienko family, living in Kyiv, January 2022 had not seemed so different to January 2021. Yurii went to work, as he had for 23 years, as a masseur practising Classical Ukrainian therapies at the Health Complex in Kyiv. He treated patients referred to him by their doctors for a range of ailments and injuries. Olesiia went to her work as the senior financial officer at the Department of Economy and Finance. Their three children worried about their homework and who had fallen out with whom at school. The occasional practice evacuation to the school air raid shelter was just treated as a bit of fun and a change from the normal routine in school. Their grandmother, Valentyna tended her garden and cared for her chickens at her home a short drive to the north of Kyiv.
All that changed on 24th February. Kyiv became the target for daily Russian missile attacks. It was no longer safe for the children to attend school. There was no longer work for Yurii and his wife Olesiia. As Russian forces approached Kyiv from the north, Valentyna was forced from the home she had loved for over 20 years. Now, the challenges they faced were how do we find a place of safety and how to cram your most important possessions and documents into a single carry-on case each. The family first fled to Drohobych, Western Ukraine, but even there they experienced daily air raid warnings and regular attacks. Eventually, and reluctantly, the family realised that they needed to leave Ukraine, to find a place of safety abroad.
Yurii was philosophical about having to leave his country; shrugging his shoulders, he said: “It is war. To keep safe, we had no choice. It was hard for the children and my mother. Nailsworth is beautiful, with beautiful people in it.”
For a relatively large, multi-generational family, finding a sponsor in the UK can be difficult. Having made contact with their current co-sponsors in Nailsworth, who could accommodate the family in two nearby homes, they began the, in their case lengthy, process of seeking leave to enter the UK. Daily checks for updates from their hosts and relentless work from Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie and her team were finally rewarded: eventually, having been assisted and housed in Warsaw by the wonderful charity Love Bristol, the Bruienkos arrived at their new homes in the early hours of 22nd June.
Thanks to great welcomes from Nailsworth and Archway Schools, the children have settled well, are getting involved in the local football team and have performed in Peter Pan at the Stroud Festival. Yurii and Olesia have been working hard to improve their English and have been working in a local hotel, undertaking garden maintenance and now pie-making.
Naturally, Yurii needs to return to his vocation and has been maintaining his massage skills by practising on friends and neighbours who are very impressed with the results.
Jason Ford at the Stroud Sports Clinic has added Yurii to his team to offer his therapeutic massage techniques. Yurii has many years of experience at treating traumatic and sports injuries as well as providing holistic treatments to promote physical well-being.
Jason said: “As a business owner I’m humbled to be able to give Yurii a helping hand in his new home in Stroud. With his excellent experience back home in elite sport I was delighted to welcome him into the Stroud Sports Clinic team. Good luck Yuri for a successful and rewarding 2023.”
Yurii is anxious to build up his client base, so to support him and his family, select Classical Ukrainian massage on the booking page of www.stroudsportsclinic.com the next time you are considering a treatment.