North Yorkshire County Council supports Latvian community
Taking your family and moving them to a completely different country can be a daunting challenge to deal with.
Working out how the health care and education system works and finding new friends can present challenges to those who choose to make the UK their new home.
In Scarborough, a number of groups aimed at supporting members of the Eastern European communities have been set up with help from a North Yorkshire County Council Stronger Communities Grant.
Latvis aims to improve the emotional, physical and social well-being of Latvians living in the area.
Pomoc (the Polish word for help / assistance), provides information, advice, guidance and signposting to members so they are able to navigate services and fully engage with community life in Scarborough.
The project has established a number of recognised drop-ins and contact points where Eastern European residents can present and receive free assistance in accessing services.
This assistance includes; interpretation and translation, filling in documentation, signposting to relevant services including accompanying clients to meetings and appointments and acting as a first point of contact for individuals in crisis. Their input has also been critical in dealing with issues around the settled status process.
The Latvian community via the Pomoc workers also set up family group Pogas (Buttons), which supports Latvian parents with pre-school or early years primary school children.
Anda Baraskina is one of the key workers for Pomoc, based at Citizens Advice. She said: “Pomoc started during Covid. We wanted to start earlier, but it had to be delayed due to covid.
“Pomoc has two parts, one part helps people to get GPs and schools and the other has been helping people to get European Settled Status. Although there is info online there are sometimes barriers to understanding and we try to help.
“We act as a bridge between communities and give an elbow to support people.
“We also set up the charity Latvis to bring people together. We enjoy each other’s friendship, but during covid we’ve had to keep safe distance. We started zoom meetings and were surprised how many people wanted to communicate, especially young mums.”
Anda came to England from Latvia and settled here 11 years ago. She said: “I fell in love with the place and have been here ever since.
“Scarborough has the seaside and old buildings, Latvia is very flat, which is why Latvian people like this.”
The three projects Anda currently coordinates work in tandem to create a stronger Eastern European community.
She said: “ Some families knew each other already, they live in close neighbourhoods and celebrate their children’s birthdays with each other.
“We aim to build on those connections and friendships and organise events to keep traditions going.
“A lot of the children are born here and are fluent in English. The parents are trying to stay in touch with their native routes.
“We are very happy to be a part of English culture, but we like to keep cultural traditions too.”
In Scarborough and the surrounding area there are around 2,000 Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish and Latvian people.
Pogas are currently in the process of making our own web page, where information will be in both languages Latvian and English.
The group met for the first time since the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions at Playdale farm.
Anda said: “It was a fantastic place and day out for families. They were so welcoming to our families.
Liga Kretaine is one of the team members for Latvis and Pogas. She said: “I am one of the team members and I organise meetings for the families. We applied for a Better Communities Grant and we plan to get everybody together as soon as possible.
“We want to organise family days, we currently have around 15 families, but we’re getting new members all the time.
Liga moved to the UK ten years ago. She met and fell in love with her Latvian husband, who incidentally came from the same town in which she grew up. The two had not known each other before.
They married and now have two girls, aged five and two.
Liga said the support groups mean a lot: “We’ve lived in Scarborough for three years and we never knew there were so many Latvians here.
“It’s good for the children to realise they can speak a different language. My youngest is only two and she speaks both languages.
“I read that it’s important for children speaking two languages to keep doing it – it gets their grey cells working!
“There are less than 2 million people in the world who speak Latvian so I want them to keep doing it.”
Eva Zakarauska, 32, from Scarborough, has three children aged seven, three and seven months. She said she enjoys attending Pogas: “I try to get involved with whatever Anda organises.
“I attend meetings with Latvian people, like playing with children and chatting, stuff like that.
“It’s good to have a meeting with new mums and to socialise more after a long two years.
“It’s good to meet Latvian people as a community and talk about traditions and share information and it’s good for the children to meet different kids.”
In Pogas and Latvis’s future plans, they are looking forward to the Generation Green camp on the North Yorkshire Moors in the Autumn and also plan to hold four educational group sessions in summer holiday term.
A safe swimming campaign/lessons titled ‘Button Bear helps be safe on water’ will combine a RNLI Scarborough Lifeboat Station visit and swimming sessions in the swimming pool with Everyone’s Active support. If you are interested in finding out more about Latvis, Pogas or Pomoc, you can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PomocProjectScarborough or email Anda Baraskina at [email protected]