A woman whose family fled to Britain to escape a war has closed her seaside hotel to tourists—so she can give Ukrainian refugees a place to stay.
Nitsa Michael is no longer taking 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, providing a “home away from home”.
Her family fled from Cyprus to Britain following a Turkish invasion in 1974, and she wanted to do something to help people in the same ‘horror situation’, fleeing from Russian aggression in Ukraine this year.
“I felt for them,” said the 84-year-old widow and great-grandmother of five.”Lets help in a big way, this is what I want to do.”
Her daughter Michelle Michael is in charge of running the hotel, which has room for 70 refugees.
“Mum always has and still does listen to the news every day and it was really bothering her. She was feeling quite sad about it all, and that’s when she came up with the idea of opening the hotel to refugees.”
The 22 arrivals share meals and time together, “and basically they heal together,” said Michelle.
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“Seeing all the people staying here and how happy they now are, it’s all due to her.”
Decades earlier, Nitsa worked as a seamstress in London and her husband Axentis was a chef before they eventually moved to the South West where they took over the Seaward Hotel.
They made it their family home where they raised their four children.
Back in ‘74 when Turkey invaded, Nitsa recalled, “We had no way of knowing if my father’s family were dead or alive because there was no connectivity. Everyone fled their homes with nothing to their names.”
To alleviate the same sort of anxiety this year, Michelle registered their family’s hotel on the Homes For Ukraine webpage, 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 she left their home in Berdyansk after explosions started in February. She had to leave behind her parents, and had not spoken to them for a month prior to arriving at the Seaward Hotel a month ago.
“This life here is very good, and I’m very glad to be in this country,” said Yuliia. “Here we have a hotel, a room, 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 provided with a phone to speak to her family back at home and she could finally communicate with her parents and brother again.
There is a WhatsApp group set up for the other families who have arrived at the hotel and Yuliia helps to translate Michelle’s messages for the other refugees.
Michelle and the team provide the refugees with welcome packs on their beds with essentials such as shower gels and deodorants. The local government has provided $250 to each person to allow each refugee to mobilize themselves to get a National Insurance number and open a bank account.
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Michelle explained Nitsa visits the hotel once a week and makes sure to meet every guest and listen to their stories. She loves to see the children around in the hotel as it reminds her of raising her own four children there. It has brought the hotel back to life.
Any refugees in need of accommodation can find the Seaward Hotel listed on Homes For Ukraine—and you can donate on the hotel’s website to help Nitsa’s family support refugees.
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