Torbay MP Kevin Foster may think it’s acceptable to view Ukraine’s beleaguered citizens as the UK’s fruit and daffodil pickers of the future (see The tweet heartless Kevin Foster didn’t want you to see – West Country Voices).
But more than 100 members of the public gathered today at the Ukrainian Cross on a country lane, just above the village of Mylor Bridge, in support of a very different opinion.
The Cross was erected in 1948 as an expression of gratitude from Ukrainian citizens who’d been given refuge in wartime Britain. Many stayed after the war, and the Cross, now somewhat tucked away in the hedgerow but always adorned with the blue and yellow Ukrainian colours, became part of the scenery.
People from all faiths joined together at the impromptu meeting, showing solidarity with those facing death and destruction at the hands of Russian aggression. Many had links to the site – one young man said his grandfather had married and settled in Flushing after the war, and had helped build the Cross – while others were there to feel they were doing something to show the depth of support for the Ukraine amongst ordinary Brits.
Today, with a very English Spring beckoning – lambs calling in the fields, the scent of wild garlic – the monument took centre stage as flowers and flags were laid, and people spoke of why they’d come to pay their respects.
Cornwall was at the heart of several speeches, with the Bishop of Truro saying:
‘This cross speaks of service and sacrifice, of life and of liberty. And today, we as a country need to express that same spirit, not least by offering the kind of hospitality that was offered here so many years ago and is an enduring sign of the welcome that we ought to be affording those who are fleeing from war.
“Not, if I may say so, offering them jobs here as fruit pickers, but recognizing them as refugees from a conflict that is not of their own devising.”
His thoughts were echoed by a self-proclaimed ‘average Joe’, OTS transport manager Craig George, sporting yellow trousers and a blue shirt, who said
“I’m just an average Joe, a local bus driver – I visited Ukraine several years ago with 17 of my colleagues to look around the country and learn a little bit about it, but we came back with so much more.
“They are remarkable people, friendly and welcoming, and I think now, especially in a rural area in Cornwall where we have the space, the infrastructure, the schools that are closing because they’re empty, we’re in a position to offer refuge to those who need it.
“I would implore everybody to write to your local MP and tell them that you support the Ukraine. The more people that just ram that home and say now is the time to help these people, visa-free, enter the UK for work or for refuge, the better. Please write.”