Olha Movchun. | Humphrey Carter


Deeply moved by images of the impact of the war in Ukraine, Paul, a yacht skipper from London, decided to do something to help displaced Ukrainians but did not know where to start. He approached Radio One Mallorca who interviewed him, and he was put in touch with Tracy, Director of Operations, Sales and Marketing for Experience Mallorca. “She has a Polish friend and he guided us to the various websites which have been set up to help Ukrainians fleeing the war. We posted one advert for accommodation in Mallorca and help with travel expenses, etc. and within two hours we had a massive response.

“However, it was just the two of us and we started by helping to bring one Ukrainian to the island. That was 22-year university psychology graduate Olha Movchun, whose dream is to become an actress. She arrived over two weeks ago and is now busy working on the yachts.

“Since then, we have been overwhelmed with offers from local residents of all nationalities and businesses, especially in the yachting industry, which has helped us a great deal in all sorts of ways. We have now housed 125 Ukrainians on the island and are in the process of setting up a proper association. Both Tracy and I have jobs and the whole operation has got so big, we want to consolidate ourselves so we can continue helping displaced Ukrainians and provide them with all the opportunities of starting a new life here in Mallorca.

“There will obviously be some who will return once the war is over. All of them, apart from one, are women and children; their husbands and fathers had to stay and train to fight. But in the meantime, we are making sure that they are well looked after and are able to lead a normal life.

“We are not talking about homeless people and I hate them being referred to as refugees. They have been displaced against their wish and are highly intelligent and professional human beings. The extremely generous people who have come forward to take them into their homes will have friends for lives, whatever they decide to do in the future. We have three main centres, as it were - Es Capdellà, Algaida and Santa Ponsa - and the Ukrainians are setting up their own little communities in these areas, although we have others all around the island.

“As a result, we are in the process of setting up the charity ‘U R Mallorca’ but there is so much red tape. We have lawyers on the case, but we would love the local authorities to step in and make our life much easier and speed things up. They have done an excellent job with regard to fast tracking Ukrainians getting their paperwork done at the police station and medical centres, but we would like the same treatment with creating the association. Time is of the essence, we need to set it up now because the Ukrainian community will continue to grow.

“As it does, we feel they need a place where they can meet on a regular basis. We have a number of major local and international companies standing by to help furnish and equip the centre, but we need a location and we don’t have a lot of money. Plus, we can’t release and use the money which has been raised, most of it thanks to the yachting industry, because we are not a recognised and registered association. So we need someone who can help us get through all the paperwork and just give us the green light to get on with it.

“The response from the general public, including the Catholic church, has been awesome. It’s been amazing to see how Mallorca has stepped up to the plate. And it’s not just about providing accommodation; many need clothes for example.

“We recently helped a group of three women come to Mallorca, two of them are in their 70s and they had been on the road for 21 days. It’s just dreadful what they have all been through. But they are so grateful, and the messages of thanks I get from the Ukrainians we have helped and their hosts bring me to tears. We’ve also brought over a couple of dogs and cats.

“Because so many of the younger Ukrainians speak very good English, it will not be long before many of them are working on the island. Those who decide to stay will go on to be able to stand on their own two feet again, rent their own property and begin a new life on the island. So this is another reason why we want to get the government and the local authorities on board.

“If the hotels are struggling to find staff, for example, especially English speakers because of Brexit and the need for work permits, etc., then come to us. We have a bank of extremely talented and lovely people desperate to work.

Olha is a prime example. A university graduate who speaks fluent English, her dream ever since being a little girl was to become an actress. She did have plans to head to the United States, but that is on hold. She has been taking online acting classes and is in touch with various agents. But right now she is having to start all over.

“My parents are still living near Irpin, which was under Russian control until last week. They live near the woods and they told me that the forest is littered with dead bodies. They have stayed because my father is 59, so he has been called up to fight and my mother would not leave him. My sister worked for a Dutch company in Kyiv and they relocated her to Warsaw, so she has stayed there while I came to Mallorca. It was not easy, we spent three days with no food or water, but thanks to Paul I got here in the end.

“As soon as we’re told it’s safe, I will return. I want revenge, I want to kill the Russians and I know Ukraine will win. I feel trapped between two places and empty. I just want life to return to how it was before. I have been torn apart and I am not the only one. But some businesses, shops and restaurants are opening again in Kyiv and that gives me hope that Ukraine is winning the war and the Russians are going home. They are not winning but Putin just wants control. He wants to control the world and he doesn’t even care about the pain he is causing his own people. But we’re fighters and we will not give up ground to the methods the Russians are using.

“In the meantime, I love being in Mallorca. I have found the people very friendly and open-minded, although it is a bit expensive and there is a lot of traffic.”