Liaiia Tamrazova, an architect from Kiev was the first refugee helped by Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East (often shortened to ACOTE) to arrive in London.
“I am very grateful to ACOTE for the help and support to come and stay in the United Kingdom. I find British people generous and compassionate to me.”
Liaiia has found a job as an architect in central London and is living with a family from the church. She has been joined by a handful of other refugees and the church is expecting up to ten more families to come over before the end of July.
Mar Awraham Youkhanis, Bishop of London for the Assyrian Church of the East, (pictured with Liaiia above) is coordinating the church’s work bringing refugees from the Assyrian-Ukrainian community safely to London. “We have more than 200 people that we’re trying to help. Of course some of them hope to remain in Ukraine, others may settle elsewhere in Turkey or Poland or Spain. But for each of them we are offering another option and importantly, hope.”
Mar Awraham and other ACOTE members are having to sponsor the refugees individually as the church, as a charitable organisation, cannot assume this responsibility. This may change but Mar Awraham said “God told me not to wait, but to get on with starting the visa applications and to get it done.” More than 70 visas have been granted so far.
“It’s been a real team effort. My youth team has been working through the application forms, our hospitality group has been making meals for the refugees and members of the community have been helping the arrivals register with doctors, enrol for English classes and to get their paperwork sorted,” Mar Awraham said.
The key to being able to support the refugees was finding accommodation for them, which could be guaranteed for the next six months. The Bishop went door to door to hotels across London before getting the offer of reduced cost rooms in a hotel run by an Egyptian Christian family.
Financial support is still needed to cover these costs, which are estimated at around £9000 for a family for six months. Donations can be made via a gofundme page, and any support would be appreciated. The diocese is also hoping to secure a property or properties that will allow families to be housed together so that people can have a community of support. Information on potential properties in London should be sent to Bishop Mar Awraham Youkhanis by email.