The Mayor of Kirklees, councillors and council staff joined with members of the Ukrainian community in Huddersfield to mark Independence Day of Ukraine.

It is 31 years since Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union – and six months since the invasion by Russian forces.

Led by Mayor Clr Masood Ahmed, senior council officials gathered at Huddersfield Ukrainian Club in Edgerton.

Michael Drapan, a senior committee member at the Huddersfield Ukrainian Club, addressed the crowd in both English and Ukrainian before a one-minute silence was held for the fallen victims of the war. This was followed by the Ukraine national anthem which brought a close to the formal proceedings.

Ukrainian refugees have been arriving in Kirklees over recent months under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme which the Government launched in March. Since then, Kirklees Council has been working closely with the Huddersfield Ukrainian Club to provide support for those arriving.

The Welcome Club, which takes place every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, is an opportunity for Ukrainian refugees to meet one another and access support for English language classes, registering to a GP, applying for school places and progress towards employment.

Mayor of Kirklees Clr Masood Ahmed

Clr Carole Pattison, Cabinet member for learning, aspiration and communities, said: “We are extremely proud of what we have achieved working together with our friends at the Huddersfield Ukrainian Club.

“Together with the club and our partners, we are providing vital support to the new arrivals, but we are also giving them a safe place to make friends and take part in social activities.

“We are proud of our Ukrainian community in Kirklees. Those who have been with us for years and those who have joined us in the last six months.

“Kirklees is a place of welcome to anyone who is fleeing war and persecution and today, and every day, we stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian friends.”

Mr Drapan said: “Our hearts go out to our people, and we unite in solidarity with our Ukrainian community as we grieve and bear the daily pain that has been inflicted on all Ukrainians.

“Kirklees Council’s support for our people and our nation has been immeasurable. They have worked tirelessly in partnership with ourselves to provide a Welcome Hub at our club that has offered dedicated support to our guests thereby providing them with the necessities required to integrate with local communities, whether for the shorter or longer term.

“Our history, our language, our traditions and culture will not be allowed to die and we as a nation will continue to stand alongside those who believe in democracy, truth and honour.”

The mayor said: “The people of Ukraine all around the world, and especially those in Kirklees, have my support.

“I also want to thank the residents of Kirklees for their incredible response to welcoming families to our district. It makes me incredibly proud to be the mayor of a borough that goes above and beyond in supporting others in times of need.”

People can show their support for Ukraine by taking part in the #SunflowersForUkraine social media campaign.

With the sunflower being the national flower for Ukraine, the nationwide campaign aims to encourage the public to show their solidarity with Ukraine through growing, crafting and sharing pictures of sunflowers for Ukrainian Independence Day. 

Post a photo or video with a sunflower using #SunflowersForUkraine #StandforFreedom and wishing Ukraine well for their Independence Day.