“All you have to be is kind.”

That’s how Maureen Franks describes opening her home to a desperate young Ukrainian woman seeking safety and shelter in Norfolk.

Maureen says hosting 23-year-old Nadia Kliuchka at her home in Watton was very rewarding. She feels she has a young friend for life and urges other people to help out and support Ukrainians who need somewhere to live. She says of her hosting experience: “I cannot think of a reason not to do it.”

Nadia adds: “We had such a brilliant time together. I had no idea what it would be like. I was never planning to leave Ukraine until all this happened.

“Here was such a peaceful environment where I could relax and restore.”

Eastern Daily Press: Host Maureen Franks was delighted to show her Ukrainian guest Nadia many of the sights of Norfolk, here Nadia is on the clifftop near CromerHost Maureen Franks was delighted to show her Ukrainian guest Nadia many of the sights of Norfolk, here Nadia is on the clifftop near Cromer (Image: Nadia Kliuchka)Hundreds of Norfolk residents have welcomed families and individuals from Ukraine into their homes, providing safe accommodation.

Now with the war in Ukraine well into its second year, Norfolk County Council is looking for more hosts to help out.

The Home for Ukraine scheme has been working well, but support and compassion for those displaced by the conflict continues to be needed, especially for those people who have been in Norfolk for a while but need to move for employment, education or other reasons.

“All people want is to feel safe and the chance of a future, and I have always said if you can help someone you need to do it,” says Maureen, a retired technical consultant who travelled the world with her work. “You put yourself in people’s shoes and you try to be flexible, but the overriding word is kind.”

Nadia lived with Maureen for several months before moving into Norwich to live independently. She has a job, has joined a gym, is making friends and a life for herself – and Maureen couldn’t be prouder.

“She comes from Kiev where she had her own beautiful apartment and life and a really good job. Coming here was such a brave thing to do,” says Maureen.

Maureen says that Nadia loved the welcome and relaxed feel to Watton: “Everyone here in my community loved her straight away.”

Nadia speaks English, Russian and Ukrainian and she really wanted her parents to leave too, but they have stayed in the west of Ukraine.

“I am really close to my family and it is really good luck that my mum and dad support each other and they know I am safe,” says Nadia.

“Maureen was incredible, she is one of the wisest and kindest people that I have ever met.”

It was very helpful that Nadia was fluent in English, but Maureen knows other host families have successfully used translation apps.

“Nadia had her own room; she would come and spend time with me if she wanted but we both had our independent lives and space. She’s moved out but knows there will always be a room here for her,” says Maureen, adding that the size and décor of your home doesn’t matter.

“It’s not about the quality of your room, it is about the welcome and feeling you are safe.”

She says the arrangement worked fantastically and she loved showing Nadia different areas in Norfolk, from the coast and the Broads to different towns and villages.

Maureen doesn’t talk about the war in Ukraine unless Nadia mentions it first, and Nadia feels that while she cannot stop the war, she can make the most of opportunities while she is here, from working, exploring and meeting people to saving up for driving lessons.

“I am trying to keep myself fit and healthy and that’s how I can help my family and friends and people here and support my country,” says Nadia.

Maureen encourages everyone with a spare room or two to consider hosting a Ukrainian family and has signed herself up to offer emergency accommodation if needed, while promising Nadia that there is always a room for her – and her parents if wanted.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk people have been welcoming families and individuals from the Ukraine and more hosts are neededNorfolk people have been welcoming families and individuals from the Ukraine and more hosts are needed (Image: Norfolk County Council)

A range of ongoing support is on offer for hosts, including a monthly thank you payment of £500. Hosts also get support with all safeguarding and accommodation checks from Norfolk County Council, alongside district, borough, city councils and voluntary sector partners.

Information packs are available to help hosts with the settling-in period and provide information on the practical steps that guests will need help with, like setting up a bank account and finding work.

Once guests are ready to move on, either into their own accommodation or to return to Ukraine, there is practical support and services available to help this go smoothly.

Do you have a spare room or rooms and can offer a safe place to stay to those fleeing the war in Ukraine? Join hundreds of other hosts across the county and register your interest now at norfolk.gov.uk/ukrainehost