Ukrainian Refugees Made Guests Of Honour At Ffos Las


01 June 2022

Svetlana and Sofia to present trophies at Bank Holiday meeting following arduous journey to Wales  

Ukrainian refugee Svetlana Osiptsova will be guest of honour at Ffos Las Racecourse this week – in recognition of her incredible story of courage and solidarity with those in her homeland.  

The speech therapist and her daughter Sofia are among the more than 1,100 Ukranians who have fled the war and settled in Wales since March.  
Leaving behind her husband, Alexander - an ambulanceman – in their home city of Mykolaiv, Svetlana and Sofia arrived in Wales on April 11.  
One of their first decisions was to attend and support a fund-raising event for Ukraine held in Swansea, where they spent some of the very little money they had on buying raffle tickets.  

Svetlana’s ticket was then pulled out of the hat, winning her one of the top prizes – a pair of tickets for this Thursday’s Kaiser Chiefs Race Night at Ffos Las, where the band will play live following a seven-race Bank Holiday meeting.  

When Ffos Las general manager Kevin Hire learnt Svetlana had won the prize, he decided to invite her and Sofia – neither of whom have been to a racecourse before - as guests of honour for the evening.  

It means they will present the trophy to the winners after the main race of the evening, the Cazoo Handicap Chase, as well as meet the jockeys and get a close-up of the horses in the parade ring.  

The gesture is in support of Sevtlana and other Ukrainian refugees, who have been uprooted and made their way to Wales against the backdrop of terrible deprivations brought on by Russia’s invasion.  

It took Svetlana and Sofia nine hours to make the first leg of their journey – from Mykolaiv to Odessa – by train, which normally takes 90 minutes.  
Carrying their belongings in a small suitcase, and trying to calm their anxious pet dog, they began a two-week journey that eventually ended in Wales.  

In Odessa, they said an emotional  goodbye to Alexander before heading hundreds of miles north-west to Lviv, from where they made onward journeys to Poland, then to Italy, before reaching Paris.  

In Paris, they were helped to apply for refugee visas to the UK and are now into their second month living with a family in Mumbles, near Swansea. 

“The journey from my home in Mykolaiv was horrendous, until we got to Paris,” says Svetlana, though an interpreter. 

“Once we were there, we had advice and support and were encouraged to apply for a visa to go to the UK. 

“It was a very difficult process, but eventually we found sponsor in Mumbles who has provided excellent accommodation for us. 

“We are very pleased to be safe. We are now leaning English, which is challenging, but we have received a very warm reception in Wales. 

“We are now looking forward to going to Ffos Las Racecourse and learning all about horse racing.” 

Sofia has also started to settle in Wales and enrolled as a student at Gower College in Swansea. 

She says: “I am looking forward to learning in the Welsh education system, which is completely different to what we have in Ukraine. 

“I am also looking forward to making friends in my own age group.” 

Svetlana says before she went to the fund-raising night where she won the raffle, she looked in the mirror. 

“It was the first time I had looked in a mirror for six weeks. I was shocked at what I saw. 

“But we have been greeted with warmth and friendship from people in Wales and we are relieved to be here.” 

Ffos Las general manager Kevin Hire says: “We were asked if we could help put up a raffle prize for the fundraiser and were absolutely honoured to help out. 

“Then, I was texted and told that a Ukrainian lady had actually won the raffle. It was incredible. 

“Straight away, we said we would help look after them on the evening and we are absolutely thrilled to be able have Svetlana and Sofia as our very special guests.”

Ffos Las Racecourse

Racecourse logo

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest news, events and special offers direct to your inbox.