Since at least the 19th century, people from Ukraine have migrated to England.
The first recorded Ukrainians arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century when several hundred people moved from Western Ukraine to Manchester.
Some returned home, while others moved to the USA or Canada, but a small community remained in the city.
Between 1946 and 1950, with the Soviet Union occupying Ukraine following the Second World War, around 35,000 Ukrainians came to the United Kingdom as part of the European Volunteer Workers scheme.
This intended to address labour shortages by providing jobs to displaced people.
Where did Ukrainian people settle in England?
Some Ukrainians got jobs in industries such as mining and settled in the industrial towns of northern and central England.
Others settled in agricultural areas in the South and East of England.
One significant community settled in Cornwall, where, in 1947, many Ukrainian refugees were employed as agricultural workers. Others contributed to the mining and fishing industries.
Some were accommodated in a hostel between Mylor Bridge and Restronguet Barton, thought to have been a German prisoner of war camp and known locally as ‘the gun sites’.
In 1948, the refugees built a Ukrainian cross near their hostel to symbolise their strong faith.
More Ukrainians migrated to England following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 and, recently, to escape the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
How Ukrainian communities have adapted existing buildings
Ukrainian communities have often adapted existing buildings to create worship, education and community activity spaces.
Several buildings across England represent the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Many feature the installation of ‘iconostasis’, a wall of icon paintings.
In Liverpool, the Catholic church of St Sebastian’s also hosts the local Ukrainian Catholic community.
The Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London is housed in the former King’s Weight House Church, designed by the famous architect Alfred Waterhouse.
Ukrainian communities in the North of England
Ukrainian communities have a powerful connection to the North of England, particularly in towns and cities in the North West and Yorkshire, including Manchester, Liverpool, Rochdale and Bradford.
Ukrainians in Manchester
Between 1921 and 1954, Ukrainians in Manchester held their services at St Chad’s, in the church itself until 1933 and then until 1940 in the church school’s chapel.
They later returned to the church after the school was bomb-damaged.
Manchester is also home to the Dormition of the Holy Mary Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church, the first church owned by the Ukrainian Catholics in England.
It was designated a ‘sobor’ (mother church) when it was consecrated by the Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop in 1954.
The Manchester Ukrainian Cultural Centre is located in Cheetham Hill, where Ukrainian immigrants made their home after the Second World War.
The centre, named ‘Dnipro’ after the Ukrainian city, provides services including a Saturday School, a choir, dance ensembles, and a pensioner’s lunch club.
Ukrainians in Rochdale, Greater Manchester
In 1992, Rochdale was twinned with the Ukrainian city of Lviv.
In 2002, to mark the 10th anniversary of the twinning, a bridge over the river Roch was named the Lviv Bridge. A plaque on the bridge bears the coats of arms of both places.
The Rochdale Branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain was established in 1948. It currently hosts several groups, including a Ukrainian youth group and choir.
The town was the first in the UK to honour the victims of the man-made Holodomor famine in Soviet Ukraine between 1932 and 1933, which killed millions of Ukrainians.
The council was also the first in England to recognise the Holodomor as an act of genocide.
Ukrainians in Oldham, Greater Manchester
Built as an Anglican church in 1889, the Ukrainian Catholic Church of All Saints & Sts Peter & Paul in Oldham was adopted by Ukrainians in 1987, replacing the nearby former school where services were previously held.
It has a plaque on the outside commemorating 1000 years of Christianity in Ukraine and a carved ‘baldacchino’ (a four-legged canopy) over the altar.
Ukrainians in Liverpool, Merseyside
In 1957, the Labour MP Bessie Braddock forged a link with the Ukrainian city of Odesa, and city councillors participated in exchange visits between the two cities.
The links were revived in the 1990s. The connection between the two cities has been highlighted again recently, with Liverpool chosen to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine.
Ukrainians in Bradford, West Yorkshire
After the Second World War, Ukrainian refugees found work in Bradford’s wool industry.
The Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church, built between 1854 and 1855 as the Eccleshill Methodist Chapel, was purchased in 1964 by members of the Ukrainian community.
Mounted on top of the porch is a large Ukrainian three-barred cross. On the front of the church is a plaque to remember the victims of the Holodomor famine.
In the North Bierley Municipal Cemetery, a striking monument erected by the Ukrainian community pays tribute to those who gave their lives for their country.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity & Our Lady of Pochaiv was built between 1878 and 1879 in the Victorian Gothic style.
It opened as a Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1966.
A decorative iconostasis was added, and there is a large painting of the crucifixion by a Yugoslavian-born Ukrainian artist.
Ukrainians in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Edgerton Hill was built as a villa around 1820. It was purchased by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain in 1964.
A year later, it opened as the Huddersfield Ukrainian Club.
By the late 1960s, the club had 230 registered members with their families. It continues to serve as a meeting place for its members, hosting events and celebrations.
In 2018, a memorial was unveiled, marking 70 years of the Ukrainian community in Huddersfield.
More sites in England with Ukrainian history
Ukrainian history can be found all across England, sometimes in unlikely places.
The New House in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, was built in 1964 for the academic Milton Grundy.
Its Japanese style garden was designed by the Chinese-Ukrainian artist Viacheslav Atroshenko, who had recently visited Kyoto in Japan with Grundy.
Born in Shanghai to Ukrainian immigrants, Atroshenko was a scholar in art and architecture. In 1991, he and Grundy published ‘Mediterranean Vernacular: A Vanishing Architectural Tradition’.
Other examples include the church of St Mark in Coventry in the West Midlands, which from 1965 was used by the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church before its conversion to a hospital department in 1973.
There’s also the church of the Holy Trinity in Hempton, Norfolk. It has a painted cross suspended above the high altar, carved by a former Ukrainian prisoner of war.
In May 2023, we celebrated Ukrainian heritage with new listings in the North of England, ahead of Liverpool hosting Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine.