THOUSANDS of children have been forced to abandon their homes, their schools and even their families as they flee the horrific war in Ukraine.

In may cases they have arrived in western countries with just a handful of possessions and some clothes packed into a suitcase.

But now 18 refugee children have been given places at one of Britain’s premier independent schools.

Working hand in hand with local charities and refugee organisations, the £40,000-a-year Brighton College is opening its doors to 18 Ukrainian children on full scholarships.

The scholarships mean that children often arriving in the Britain with almost nothing are being handed the opportunity to study - for up to three years - at a school which regularly comes in the top 10 in exam league tables.

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The places have been awarded across the schools and pupils aged between five and 17 have already taken up their places.

Many of the refugee pupils are living with families who already have children studying at the school.

As well as meeting the cost of the fees, the scholarship includes a free school uniform, all trips, devices, activities and clubs.

Social occasions have been organised for the families to meet up; English tuition has been provided from current Brighton College pupils and many have already been to watch a Premier League football match in Brighton, Mindful that the children have fled war the school has set up different types of professional support including counselling, play therapy and art therapy.

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Headteacher Richard Cairns says the whole school community is behind the initiative with parents, pupils and staff all contributing in ways that they can - from providing accommodation to support with visas, getting new uniforms and helping families settle in.

The school has a recent history of helping children fleeing the terrors of war.

Former pupils Sulaiman Wihba and Elias Badin said they were “incredibly lucky” to be given scholarships at the school when they fled the war in Syria five years ago.

Three years later Sulaiman was awarded a place at Balliol College, Oxford while Elias went on to study medicine at the University of London.

Having worked closely with charities such as Sanctuary on Sea and Voices in Exile to set up the pioneering scholarship places for the Syrian refugees, they were able to expand the offer to 18 places for Ukrainian children.

Pupils at the school have been incredibly active in organising a range of fundraising initiatives.

Pupils collectively cycled, ran, walked and swam the distance to Kyiv and raised over £4,000 for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. The whole school participated in a national ‘Day for Ukraine’ last week, during which pupils and staff raised over £2,000.

A group of 6th form pupils also linked up with a language teaching centre in Ukraine and, working with teachers and pupils from around the UK, started online English language lessons to Ukrainian students who have been displaced and are otherwise unable to continue their classes.

The Argus: Siblings Sasha (L) and Anna (R)Siblings Sasha (L) and Anna (R)

Steve Marshall-Taylor, head of Senior School, said: “This has been very much led by the pupils who came to us after the war broke out and said: ‘What are we going to do?’ “We linked up with a charity we have worked with before who were helping distribute humanitarian aid at the Polish border and they put us in touch with the children. Others have come to us directly.

“The pupils are very mixed and there has been absolutely no criteria for them being accepted and awarded the scholarship. Some have limited or no English and we are assisting with helping them learn the language.

“Our own pupils have been wonderful, writing to their MPs to speed up the visa process and generally being hugely engaged with the children who are arriving.

“They are starting to make firm friends among the children who have arrived. This is by no means a one way street as it asks them to wrestle with the big questions of politics and war and helps them develop into rounded and empathetic human beings.”

VLADYSLAV Vladyslav, 17, left his home near Kyiv just as the war was breaking out and travelled to the Polish border where he queued for hours to get across.

Once in Poland he volunteered to help with the humanitarian efforts, loading and unloading lorries that were transporting medicine, food and clothing all over the border into Ukraine.

Often working 10 hour days he was eventually joined by his mother and they travelled to the UK.

He is fluent in English and had been studying at the Mohyla Academy in Kyiv.

He loves to study economics and maths and would eventually like to break into the world of finance.

“At the moment I am focused on doing well at Brighton College. It is difficult to adjust to a new country and the future is a little uncertain.”

Vlad’s father remained in Ukraine delivering essential food and medicine, such a insulin, all across the country.

Vlad is worried for the safety of his father carrying out what is undoubtedly very dangerous work but he is justifiably proud.

He is also worried about his grandma who has remained in Ukraine.

“I am worried about them. They’re still in Ukraine and we don’t know what is happening from one minute to the next. I just hope they are safe.”


The journey west for Anna, 15, involved travelling through 10 different countries and staying in four before here family eventually ended up in northern Italy.

Terrified of the daily air raid sirens the family had taken the decision to leave just before Kyiv came under attack.

“I was absolutely terrified of the sirens. They scared me so, so much. I knew I would not be able to cope if bombs started raining down on the city and there were explosions.

“I left with my mother and younger brother, Sasha, who is six, and we managed to get permission to come to the UK.

“It was very difficult emotionally to leave, leaving friends and family behind was very worrying.

“Then we heard Brighton College was offering places to Ukrainian refugees and we applied. I just emailed them, chancing my luck and they got back to me.

“I’m so happy to be here. I want to do well. I love maths, biology, physics and chemistry and would love to work in the field of medicine and maybe become a doctor.

“I have been given a really good opportunity because this is a very good school and I want to make the most of it.”

She and her mother and brother are presently living in the village of Ditchling, with a family that has two daughters at the school.

“They are so kind,” said Anna. “Everything about my experiences since coming to the UK has been positive. Everyone is so kind.”

GRISHA Grisha, 17, was studying in Kyiv when his family decided to flee Ukraine as the war was about to start.

With his mother and brother, they first went to Romania before flying to France and travelling from there to Switzerland.

Using friendly contacts Grisha moved back to France before making his way on his own to the UK.

“I moved around a lot before I got here, going backwards and forwards to France and living on my own.”

He was followed by his mother and younger brother and now the family is living together with a Brighton College parent, who has two children at the school, near Guildford, Surrey.

He said: “It was quite a journey but I’m so happy to be here and to have got a place at the school. I want to do well.

“It was difficult leaving Ukraine as my life and university were there and I have left family over there so it is hard.”

Grisha excels in maths, physics and chemistry and started online lessons before his arrival in the UK.

He is an excellent swimmer and wrestled for eight years in Ukraine. He is keen to make the best of the scholarship.

His younger brother is a talented violinist and has already been enrolled at the Yehudi Menuhin music school in London.

ROSTYSLAV Rostyslav, 17, is the oldest of five boys and he and his brother, Vova, 12, and twin step-brothers Rajindra and Justin, both five, have all found places at Brighton College. The youngest, three, is too young to attend.

“Even my young step-brothers have places at the pre-prep school so we are all together.”

Rosty says his step-father took the decision to leave Ukraine just a week before Russia launched its attack.

Rosty said: “He didn’t want to take any risks whatsoever with our safety, especially with my step-brothers being so young and we moved straight away.”

The family initially flew to Turkey and were going to wait and see what happened before making any move.

But when the assault began his father took steps to get the family to the UK.

The last few years have been turbulent for Rosty as the family had moved to India and he was studying in a college over there.

When Covid-19 broke out the family moved back to Kharkiv in Ukraine and he attended college in Kyiv. When war broke out they fled again.

Rosty already has a 27-year-old step-brother in the UK and he read in the Sunday Times that Brighton College was offering scholarship places.

He made contact with the school and the wheels were set in motion to bring the whole family to Brighton.

The whole family - mother, step-father and five boys - is living together in a house in Brighton and they aim to move somewhere more permanent soon.

“Everyone has been so unbelievably kind at the school and I love it here. I have never studied anywhere quite like it.”

Keen on literature, Rosty writes his own poetry and want some day to become a writer.

“That is my ambition at the moment,” he said. “I’d love to write children’s books.”

Both Rosty and his brother Vova are keen swimmers and have started a lifeguard qualification at Brighton Swim School over the Easter holidays and are also doing some volunteer work there.

Both are keen footballers and as well as speaking Ukrainian and English, they are also able to speak Hindi.