Ukrainian refugee thanks Thorp House Nursing Home resident for fund-raising marathon
A Ukrainian refugee has personally thanked Thorp House Nursing Home resident Michael Harper for his inspiring wheelchair marathon to support families fleeing the war.
Tetyana Antoshchenko warmly clasped the hand of Mr Harper during a talk she gave at a Watton Rotary Club lunch, recounting her personal experience of the conflict.
The club had invited Mr Harper to the lunch to listen to the talk after learning of his fund-raising for British-Ukrainian Aid.
The former postman, 54, who has irreversible liver damage and was given four months to live when he moved into the Kingsley Healthcare home in Griston in June 2020, successfully completed 100 laps of the garden in his wheelchair.
He had set the goal of raising £100 but reached £470 through online donations.
Mr Harper, who beat his alcohol addiction with the support of Thorp House staff, was spurred into fund-raising action after being shocked by images of the war-torn country he had seen on the news.
He said: “I don’t know how much time I have left but I wanted to do good with the time I have been given.”
Marcia Hughes, wellbeing coordinator at Thorp House, described Mr Harper as “an inspiration to us all”.
"He had a stroke a few months ago, but despite his health difficulties, he was determined to do his wheelchair marathon.
“Michael says that staff have ‘saved his life’ and he is so grateful for the care and love he receives,” she said.
Ms Antoshchenko told the lunch there had been a 7pm curfew in her home town in southern Ukraine at the time of the invasion.
She had been queuing to get into a shop to buy toiletries before the curfew ended when she saw Russian soldiers were about, and described being “so scared” and “rushing home”.
She recalled a rally in her home town – the largest gathering she had ever seen - with locals including herself protesting for the Russians to go home.
It took about six weeks before she realised that she was in danger and she and her friends made the difficult decision to leave.
What should have been a four to five-hour journey took them weeks as they crossed over 30 Russian checkpoints in what she described as the “scariest and most stressful trip” she had ever made before arriving safely in Poland.
Since arriving in the UK, Ms Antoshchenko has been staying at temporary accommodation in Norwich; she said she was “so grateful” for the UK support.
However, when she reflects on the situation in Ukraine she feels there is “little hope for the future” and doubts whether she will ever see her parents again.
“A large part of Ukraine is gone and Ukraine’s men and women are now displaced all over Europe,” she said.
Author: Stephen Pullinger