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  • Writer's pictureDUA Team

Conversation Café for Ukraine, recipient of Exeter Living Civic Award, turns 2!

Updated: Mar 27


What: Special Event - Conversation Café for Ukraine turns 2!

When: Friday, 22 March 2024 18:00-21:00

Where: The Mermaid, 11b Gandy St, Exeter EX4

EXETER, DEVON - As a response to Russia’s full-scale war invasion of Ukraine, a welcome hub for UK sponsors and their Ukrainian guests, Conversation Café for Ukraine, was established in Exeter in March 2022. With the support from Exeter City Council, the hub was initiated by the local artists at the Maketank Cultural Lab CIC, and now operated by a fledgling Devon Ukrainian Association (DUA), formed in May 2022. Created by and for the local Ukrainian community, DUA emerged out of necessity to help the Ukrainian people thrive in Devon when numbers of ‘Homes for Ukraine’ visas began to reach 2,000 for the county.

Café opened its doors on March 24, and on March 31 it received its first visit from a recently arrived Ukrainian family.  We warmly welcomed a young mother, who was a medical nurse in her home country. She came with a bright and sweet 4-year-old daughter. She arrived on a family visa, which created a set of barriers for her.  To assist her with integration we helped her to get a job and as well as to find a private, non-council funded, sponsor, who generously provided them with an accommodation. Over the course of its existence, Café saw an outpouring of such support from residents who offered not only their homes to host people fleeing the devastation of their land, but also gave donations and humanitarian supplies to be sent to Ukraine.

To commemorate this experience of running this project, Devon Ukrainian Association is holding a special evening consisting of several parts. We will open with a short presentation of the work we did for the past two years, which was recently recognised with the Exeter Living Award in the Civic Category. The feedback from the judges read: “Phenomenal impact welcoming Ukrainian refugees and supporting host families. Established Saturday school for children; approached by other councils due to success. A credit to Exeter.”

We will proceed with celebrating the volunteers and members of our community who made a difference in the lives of others.  We will also share the achievements of community members in reaching independence by establishing their own businesses or by gaining professional employment in such areas as accounting, human resources, sales, IT, etc.

To conclude the evening, the event will have a segment of Ukrainian War poetry reading. With DUA’s strong commitment towards its cultural and education programme, it recently joined forces with academics in the University of Exeter’s Department of Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies, to run a series of community workshops, ‘Ukrainian War Poetry: Translating Experience’, with support from the University’s Bridging Communities Fund. The workshops invited Ukrainians in Devon and Exeter to participate in poetry reading, share their reactions to it, inspiring their own creative writing to ‘translate’ their experience. The Devon-based prize-winning poet Fiona Benson was leading the creative sessions. This project draws on the power of poetic expression as a source of resilience and defiance in the face of brutal force that seeks to destroy Ukrainian language, culture, and lives. It also serves as another platform for the Ukrainian community in Exeter and Devon to demonstrate their own inspirational resilience.


More about Devon Ukrainian Association can be found here

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