Briton who fled war in 1974 closes her hotel to tourists and offers Ukrainian refugees shelter instead
A woman whose family fled to Britain to escape a war has closed her seaside hotel to tourists, so she can provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees.
Nitsa Michael no longer hosts guests at the Seaward Hotel, even during her busiest season in Weston-super-Mare, England. Instead, she has rolled out the welcome mat to 22 Ukrainians, so far, offering a “home away from home”.
Her family fled Cyprus to Britain following a Turkish invasion in 1974, and they wanted to do something to help people in the same ‘horrific situation’, fleeing Russian aggression in Ukraine this year .
“I felt for them,” said the 84-year-old widow and great-grandmother of five. “Let’s help a lot, that’s what I want to do.”
His daughter Michelle Michael is in charge of running the hotel, which can accommodate 70 refugees.
“Mom always listened and still listens to the news every day and it really bothered her. She felt quite sad about it all, and that’s when she had the idea of opening the hotel to refugees.
The 22 newcomers share meals and time together, “and basically they heal together,” Michelle said.
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“To see all the people who stay here and how happy they are now is thanks to her.”
Decades earlier, Nitsa worked as a seamstress in London and her husband Axentis was a chef before eventually moving to the South West where they took over the Seaward Hotel.
They made it their family home where they raised their four children.
In 1974, during the invasion of Turkey, Nitsa recalls: “We had no way of knowing if my father’s family was dead or alive because there was no connectivity. Everyone fled their home with nothing to their name. »
To ease the same kind of anxiety this year, Michelle recorded their family’s hotel on the Houses for Ukraine web page, and before they knew it, they were welcoming their first refugee.
Yuliia, 31, now lives in the hotel with her husband and their dog after leaving their home in Berdyansk after the blasts began in February. She had to leave her parents behind and hadn’t spoken to them for a month before arriving at the Seaward Hotel a month ago.
“Life here is very pleasant and I am very happy to be in this country,” Yuliia said. “Here we have a hotel, a bedroom, a shower, a kitchen and many other things – we also have the sea.”
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Since arriving in the UK, she has been given a phone to talk to her family back home and she has finally been able to communicate again with her parents and brother.
A WhatsApp group is set up for the other families who have arrived at the hotel and Yuliia helps translate Michelle’s messages for the other refugees.
Michelle and the team provide refugees with welcome packs on their beds with essentials such as shower gels and deodorants. The local government provided $250 to each person to enable each refugee to mobilize to obtain a national insurance number and open a bank account.
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Michelle explained that Nitsa visits the hotel once a week and makes sure to meet each guest and hear their stories. She loves seeing the kids in the hotel as it reminds her of raising her four children there. It brought the hotel back to life.
All refugees in need of accommodation can find the Seaward Hotel listed on Houses for Ukraine— and you can donate on the hotel’s website to help Nitsa’s family support refugees.
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