Open doors, free meals and British borscht – is this the Ukraine-friendliest town in the UK?

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been welcomed to Britain – but nowhere more so than in the leafy town of Crowborough, East Sussex. How are the new arrivals settling in?

On the wall of platform one at Crowborough station is a series of posters encouraging visitors to the East Sussex town. They’re meant to look like vintage railway posters, with steam trains chuffing through chocolate-box countryside. “Visit Crowborough, gateway to Ashdown Forest” reads one. “Come to Crowborough, to Ramble” and “Come to Crowborough, for the Finest Country Outdoor Pursuits”. They might want to commission a new poster, something like “Come to Crowborough, to escape Putin’s bombs”.

That’s what Crowborough’s newest visitors are doing, and there are plenty of them. It’s hard to give an exact number, but 1,130 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in East Sussex since the Home Office finally got around to unbolting the door in March; they are staying in 496 different properties across the county; 325 school places have been allocated to Ukrainian children. The figure will rise to 1,580 when all those expected arrive. Within that, Wealden district – which includes Crowborough, Hailsham and Uckfield – will have close to 600, more than anywhere else in the country.

Top: Vadym and Inna with their children Sofiia and Danyil. Above, left: Danyil leans against his father. Above right: a sign at the front door of Steve and Jenny Rees’s home

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