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Ukrainian Porthcawl pupil embraces the Welsh language!

Bohdan Syvak, a Ukrainian Porthcawl comprehensive pupil, has just sat his Welsh GCSE –illustrating what can be achieved when communities support each other, as well as the power of true resilience and determination.

When Russia declared war on the Ukraine, Bohdan Syvak and his family left their home suddenly on 6 March - staying in Germany for six weeks, before arriving in Wales to receive a warm welcome from a family in Porthcawl.

Joining Porthcawl Comprehensive School in June 2022, Bohdan received much support from the school community, with pupils reaching out to him, as well as staff.  Alison Lloyd, Head of the Welsh Department at the school, dedicated her lunchtimes to help Bohdan learn Welsh.

Ten months after arriving in Wales for the first time, Bohdan sat his first Welsh GCSE speaking exam, followed by another three exams to assess his Welsh listening, reading and writing skills. 

Speaking of Bohdan, Mrs. Lloyd said: “I am incredibly proud of Bohdan and what he has achieved.  After the upheaval of leaving his home, family and friends in Ukraine, he has settled so well in his new life in Porthcawl. 

“He has turned up every day with a smile on his face, greeted me with, ‘Shwmae!’, and has thrown himself into learning Welsh - regularly giving up his lunchtimes and his great love, football, to practise his Welsh. 

“I wish him every success in his exams and the future and hope that he continues to speak Welsh. 

“I would love to see Bohdan on S4C in the future, playing for the Ukranian national football team and giving an interview in Welsh afterwards!”

Bohdan said: “I appreciate Mrs Lloyd giving up her lunchtimes to help me with Welsh so that I could do my GCSE exam. 

“Learning Welsh was hard but if you spend time on what you want to do, you will get better.  

“I felt like I wanted to learn Welsh because it’s a good skill to have for the future, but also I didn’t want to live in Wales and be unable to speak Welsh. 

“I’m going to college in September, but I would really like to carry on learning Welsh and be able to speak it fluently.”

To date, 198 Ukrainians have sought refuge in the county borough through the Welsh Government’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme.  Around half of these have been supported to secure work and their own accommodation.

We are proud to say that we have adopted a whole council approach to support our Ukrainian community, through establishing a working group involving housing, education and social services, amongst others.

We have a dedicated team that have dealt with queries from hosts and individuals, whilst a dedicated support service has been commissioned with Taff Housing. This team includes staff, who themselves have arrived from Ukraine.

Councillor Rhys Goode, Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning and Regeneration

Let’s also remember the kindness of the communities, including those of schools, who have also embraced our vulnerable refugees, enabling them to settle here in the county borough.

How inspiring to hear of Bohdan’s story! We wish him all the very best for his results! However, the real success lies in his perseverance and dedication – a lesson for us all.

Councillor Jon Paul Blundell, Cabinet Member for Education

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