What would Christ do? In Nieuw-Lekkerland, a village on the Lek to the east of Rotterdam, many residents ask themselves this question when making a difficult decision. In the case of refugees from Ukraine, Jesus will open his door to those in need and receive them with hospitality. Thus the Ukrainian flag is flying everywhere in the village of more than 9,000 inhabitants. 146 Ukrainians have been received here since the beginning of March, at 49 addresses.
New Lakerland already had a relationship with Ukraine. Every spring since 1998, a bus full of children arrives from Zhytomyr, who spend six weeks in host families in the placerward. Accommodation is organized by the institution Helping Christian Children† Kids join families, go to school, there are trips to the zoo, the beach and the playground.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, it was time for the annual visit. A text had already been prepared, which had to be amended to become the “Guide to Reception of Refugees”. From the pulpit in the village churches, Nieuw-Lekkerlanders were asked who could help. They came from Ukraine, already in the first week, about fifty people: some children who would come anyway, and now with their brothers, sisters and mothers. Or the adults who once came to Nieuw-Lekkerland as children and who are now on the run with their children.
Twenty-nine-year-old Lisa Karplyuk, who resided in New Lakeland twenty years ago, came from Kyiv with her 18-year-old sister Bogdana. They are housed in the same house that Lisa lived in twenty years ago when she came here as a child – her Dutch “custodial mother” is now 75 years old. Marina Kriniuk (35 years old) came with her almost four-year-old son with a friend he had who previously lived in New Zealand.. delicious land. She says they are now living with Els and Jan. “They are so sweet.”
Henny Prins said her husband, Gerard, totally wanted to help. They have five children, so they had to give up. Their nine-year-old daughter gave up her room, and then there was a place for Lesia Zhinevych, an English teacher in Ukraine. She has two children, a nineteen-year-old daughter Karina and thirteen-year-old Artem. Gerard went to pick them up at midnight in Amersfoort, where they arrived by train. Lecia’s sister-in-law lives with two children next door. Two homes away is Lecia’s cousin.
Lesia teaches Ukrainian children in the village primary school – not only her English subject, but also others. She teaches children in Ukraine via Zoom. Henny Prins: “So she’s not bored.” Student Kareena wants to go to work as soon as possible. And Artem is having a great time now because he’s used to it and he has a bike.
Read also about the refugees received in Hillegom: Kareena and Sasha didn’t stay in Heligum until the war was over
Lynne Braidfield is the Chairman of the Christian Children’s Relief Foundation, but has been on the Refuge Network for a month now. Or rather: a man on a bicycle. Moves from one host family to another all day long. A role he wasn’t necessarily aspiring to, but one that came his way. It works fine. Anyone related to the refugee shelter calls Lynn.
It even overshadowed how New Lakers opened their doors to refugees. It refers to Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan (from the Gospel of Luke) who helped a victim of violence. But you still have to do it.
Now that all the empty rooms, attics, and garden canopies were filled, the first cracks were visible as well. One family welcomed a mother of five daughters into a listed house. Two weeks later, father and son arrived — “both huge guys,” says Lynne Bridfield. That’s hard. Bridfield, who has resided in Ukraine several times, says Ukrainians are usually very civil and kind. “But sometimes someone feels like a guest in your house after a while.” He says, “As a host family you have to take care of yourself first, it is better to take care of others. You can also see that in the Bible.”
How do you deal with people who are not used to having dinner together every day at 5:30? And what if the kids stayed up by 10 o’clock? Do you agree when the bathroom is free? “Sometimes it’s just plain annoying,” he says. “How many grains do you put on your bread?”
Leen Breedveld has fifty beds available if something goes wrong. I have already used it several times. Accommodation for a family of eight may soon be available in a nearby village.
He also consults with the municipality about BSN, insurance, work and bank account numbers. Young children go to primary school in the village where they are taught by Ukrainian teachers – who were also among the refugees. Thirty teenagers in a transitional classroom in Dordrecht.
The adults in the church receive language lessons from volunteers. They are simple sentences that Jacqueline van den Berg practices with them. “who are you?” , “What day is today?” Van den Bergen: “It’s still tough. I’m more interested in radiating a little warmth. I gave them a friendly nod to make them feel welcome.”
A repaired church has made its church available so that Ukrainians can gather there on Sunday afternoon. Lynne Braidfield is head guard. He opens the door, drinks coffee, and then closes the door. “You do what you can,” he says. “This is also what Jesus will do.”
Read also about the shelter in the village of Manna: Amen awaits Ukrainian refugees – who have not yet arrived