The extraordinary stories of Manchester’s Ukrainians
Plus, HOME says it is 'in discussions' about its Engels statue, and we meet Rochdale author Mark Hodkinson
Dear Millers — we’ve spent much of the past week with the Ukrainian community in Manchester. We’ve just released a special podcast that reflects their feelings and experiences during a time of war, and we have a bit more reporting in today’s newsletter.
In the podcast, we hear from a couple who woke up to the news of the Russian invasion in Kyiv and quickly fled the city — since we recorded the interview we are pleased to say they have arrived back in Manchester. We also speak to Oksana, a Ukrainian shopkeeper in Cheetham Hill, who speaks movingly about her family back home — and how some Russian customers accused her of supporting fascism after the annexation of Crimea.
Plus: Dani visits a traditional dance troupe here in Manchester and Joshi reports from the city’s anti-war vigil — you can hear the crowd singing the Ukrainian national anthem at the start of the episode. You can listen in on Apple, Google and Spotify, and please do share it with a few friends. And as always, thanks to our editor Rufaro Faith and the brilliant Audio Always in MediaCity, whose work makes the podcast possible.
Date for your diary: On Saturday, there will be another “Stand with Ukraine” vigil at Piccadilly Gardens from 2pm till 4pm. Here’s our report from the last one.
Please help: The Polish Social Centre in Bury (Back East Street, BL9 0RU) desperately need drivers and vehicles to transport donations to Wrexham tomorrow (Friday). Please phone Alicja Popwicz at 07432 11290 if you have a van or car and would like to help.
On Monday, we told you about the origins of Manchester’s 12-ft statue of Friedrich Engels, which started life in an eastern Ukrainian village in the Soviet era and was brought to this city by an artist in 2017. After we published that newsletter we got a flurry of tweets and emails from readers about the statue, including one who said: “I’ve hated that thing for years — it’s utterly ridiculous that it’s still there.” This morning HOME, which owns the statue, told us they are considering its future. A spokesperson told The Mill: “In light of the illegal invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, we are in discussions with the co-commissioners of the artwork Manchester International Festival and the artist Phil Collins about how best to respond.” Will they paint it blue and yellow, as some have been suggesting? We’ll let you know (and you can join the lively debate about it on Twitter here).
The latest GMP inspection has found that, while crime recording has improved, the force is still missing around 32,000 crimes a year. It also found that only 8.5% of crimes recorded in GM in the year ending March 2021 resulted in action being taken. “By failing to attend calls in an appropriate time frame, victims may be put at risk and evidence potentially can be lost,” the report says. More here.
Andy Burnham has accused Boris Johnson of playing “dishonest politics” after the Prime Minister called Manchester’s Clean Air Zone plans “thoughtless”. Last month, the mayor released a statement highlighting the Government’s primary role in the plans. More here.
Oldham Council has agreed to purchase the beautiful former Prudential Assurance Building. The decision to purchase it came after comedian Griff Rhys Jones — who is also president of the Victorian Society — urged the council to reuse the building. A new Mill HQ maybe… More here.
In today’s members-only edition:
Dani goes to Cheetham Hill to meet Podilya, the Ukrainian Youth Association's dance ensemble, who are keeping the country’s culture thriving.
Jack gets you up to speed on Manchester City Council’s all-important 2022-23 budget.
Rochdale writer Mark Hodkinson, the author of a well-reviewed new book No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy, invites us into his book cave and talks about his family’s roots in Harpurhey, Collyhurst and Blackley.
And we give you a Weekend To Do List, including the long-awaited return of the Royal Exchange…
‘It really does hold a big place in our hearts’: A celebration of Ukrainian dancing in dark times
By Dani Cole
In Cheetham Hill, a group of Ukrainian dancers are under the instruction of Linda Szlachetko, who is running a tight ship. They’re performing the Hopak, an impressive, fast-paced Ukrainian folk dance. “Hands on waists, not in pockets,” she shouts. “Lift your feet up!” The dancers, young men and women, shoot gracefully across the floor and whirl in circles. They move so fast that the pages of my notebook whoosh up as they blur past me.
Podilya is the Ukrainian Youth Association's dance ensemble, and since 1996 they've been keeping Ukraine’s traditions and culture thriving. Podilya is entirely volunteer-led, and the dancers who are here tonight have day jobs in IT, dentistry, graphic design, and teaching. There are also a few university students and schoolchildren, who have stepped up from the younger dance group. Together they’ve performed across Europe, including Greece, Italy and Ukraine.
I meet Sophia, 30, who lives near MediaCity and works in banking. Linda’s her mum, and Sophia’s been dancing since the age of two — her first memories are having a small pair of red ballet shoes. “I’m still going, maybe creaking a little bit more than I used to,” she laughs.