As the world looks back on the past year of devastation in Ukraine, one small village in Oxfordshire is coming together to do their bit to help those in crisis. Over the last several months, many Ukrainian families have been welcomed into Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and have been embraced by their hosts and the community. One such host is BAFTA winning film maker David Dugan whose most recent project is the documentary ‘Ukraine: War from the Air’ for which he is the executive producer. The film has been released on Channel 4 and is available to stream now. It reflects on the last year, following the Russian invasion, and how drones and satellite imagery has been employed by Ukraine to fight back. There are two versions of the film, the one available on Channel 4, and a National Geographical version, both of which are directed by Joby Lubman. 


This Friday (24th of February), to mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion, local charity ‘Brightwell Supporting Refugees’ is hosting an event at which the National Geographical version of the documentary will be streamed followed by a live online Q&A with Slava Chaus (the military governor of Chemihiv Province). It is taking place in Brightwell’s village hall at 7:30 and both David and Joby will be in attendance. Tickets are still available for £10 but will also be sold at the door.


Brightwell-cum-Sotwell already had a well-established charity supporting refugees around the world and although those coming to the village from Ukraine were not refugees in the same sense, Brightwell Supporting Refugees (BSR) found that it had the necessary experience and contacts to raise money and provide support. In particular, they helped with matching guests to hosts, transport, and offered conversation classes to help with the transition.


BSR was set up in 2015, in the midst of the Syrian civil war crisis, when a group of villagers decided that they wanted to try and help in any way they could. Helen Conner, co-chair of the charity’s trustee board, said


‘We started off quite small thinking we need to do something, as a village, as a community, we can do something. And then one thing led to another and we’ve raised over £60,000 now’. 


The now registered charity aims to help those fleeing from conflict anywhere, with an emphasis on education and raising awareness. Over the last seven years BSR have committed to helping ‘Hope School’ in South Amman, Jordan, for which they have funded schoolbooks, computer equipment, family support and pay for two of the teacher’s salaries. 


As the war in Ukraine enters its second year and the future remains terribly uncertain for Ukrainians everywhere, the people of Brightwell will continue to offer whatever help and support they can.