Letters - 20 January 2023

From Refugees from Ukraine to Silent listening

Refugees from Ukraine

Each county in Wales was asked to find somewhere for refugees from Ukraine early in 2022 when the Russian occupation stepped up, and we were fortunate in Bangor that a university hall of residence could be made available.

An existing refugee support group on Ynys Môn / Anglesey, already sponsoring a Syrian family, approached Bangor Quakers to ask if they could use the Meeting house not far from the Ukrainians’ hall of residence.

Bangor Local Meeting was eager to agree, and has adopted the Dyma Ni / Here We Are project, a partnership of several faith and secular groups offering a welcome both to the single refugees in the hall of residence, and to the families placed in the area with sponsors.

Dyma Ni holds sessions twice a week in the Meeting house. All the volunteers have undertaken basic training in working with refugees and in safeguarding, and the co-ordinating group have all been DBS-checked. We offer a warm, friendly place, coffee and cake or fruit, toys to play with, and informal English practice when the formal classes at Coleg Menai are in recess.

Our guests can select from donated suitcases and clothes, and we have enjoyed craft sessions, trips out, and most recently some thirty Ukrainians met up to celebrate Christmas on 25 December (their choice of date) in the Meeting house.

It never looked so pretty! From the table decorations to the playlist on YouTube of Ukrainian carols projected on the wall (using the system set up for Zoom worship during Covid), to the table loaded with wonderful Ukrainian food largely made by our guests, and surrounded by many of the people we have the privilege and pleasure of getting to know.

We started and ended with the Ukrainian national anthem, ate well, and still people went home with bags of food as well as their presents. Some stayed to wash up and put away the tables – they know the Meeting house well by now and we are glad to see they feel so much at home in it.

Frances Voelcker
on behalf of Dyma Ni coordinators

Moving poem

I was moved by Rosemary Matthew’s poem, ‘Early Christian Anchorite’ (6 January 2023):

To escape this world’s contagion, I will go
Forth to the wilderness and build me there
A shelter; or a cave find in the hills
Thus will I loose myself from Satan’s ills.

It came just after visiting a friend who is doing precisely that. She is about to build a ‘tiny-house’, with hopes to have a ‘chapel’ in the wilds. This for her own wholeness, and for the healing of the world.

As Quaker faith & practice undergoes revision, and as we rightly reach out to the world of today, I yearn that such metaphorical language from our Christian rooting will hold fast its storm-heaved moorings. As Rosemary’s poem continues: we need ‘… the quiet of prayer and thought profound, / Words whispered in the heart, “Love makes you free”.’

Alastair McIntosh

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