A Level Success for Ukrainian Refugee Living in Chiswick

Tymur bags three after just eight months study

Tymur in his new suit from Marks and Spencer. Picture: Louise Kaye

August 20, 2023

An 18-year-old Ukrainian living in Chiswick has just gained good grades in three A Levels despite only being at school in this country for eight months.

Tymur Sabri attended Latymer Upper School after he fled Kyiv, a city under bombardment, at the end of last year. The school provides free places funded by donors to children who are fleeing conflict zones.

Along with his mother Svitlana, he found a new home last year in Bedford Park with Lousie Kaye a placement that was initiated by a post made by Tymur on Facebook.

Despite the short time available to study, he achieved A, C and D in Music, Physics and Maths. This has won him a place on the Tonmeister course at Surrey University which is reputed to be the best Sound Engineering course in the country.

Tymur turned 18 last December and, having been accustomed to wear tracksuit and trainers, as a birthday gift he was taken along to Marks and Spencer for a suit to wear to his part time job as an usher at Wigmore Hall.

The musical associations are not accidental. His mother is a professional accompanist and Louise is very involved in the world of classical music and has a piano in her living room. She had deliberately sought out someone in the arts to host and when her friend noticed the reference to Svitlana being a musician, she drew her attention to it.

Before the war, Tymur had lived in Kyiv with his parents and an older brother with his sister having got married and moved out to live nearby with her husband.

Shortly after the full-scale invasion, Tymur was visiting his grandmother in a village on the outskirts of Kyiv when it was subject to a rocket attack. That prompted his family to make the tough decision to leave their homes.

Along with his mother, sister Karina, a cousin and two aunts Tymur left Ukraine. Aged just seventeen at the time, he was allowed to go but his 53-year-old father, who himself had fled Afghanistan during an earlier conflict there, and 23-year-old brother Arthur had to stay.

It took three days to get to the border, first by train to Lviv, then by hiring someone to drive them and finally on foot. Their initial destination was Warsaw where Karina’s husband had a contact that was able to secure them accommodation.

However, this was only temporary, and the group was obliged to split up with Karina heading to Paris and the cousins and aunts staying in Poland. Tymur spoke good English and wanted to go to an English-speaking country to gain full fluency.

A post on Facebook seeking sponsors through the Homes for Ukraine programme yielded a lot of responses including one suggesting Tymur and his mother contact Louise Kaye who was specifically looking to host people with connections to the arts as she is an artist.

Along with her late husband David, she had regularly hosted young musicians who needed a place to stay at their home and the house had available guest bedrooms along with a kitchenette.

They had previously considered hosting a Syrian refugee and had been in contact with Refugees at Home, a locally based organisation which provides placements for people fleeing conflict. However, David’s untimely death in 2019 put paid to these plans as Louise didn’t feel she could host alone.

When war broke out in Ukraine, now with a new partner Clare, Louise reconsidered her position. Part of her motivation was the personal connection she had with the area. Her Jewish grandfather had been forced to flee Zlatopol near Odesa with his family at the end of the 19th century.

After her friend had drawn attention to the Facebook post, emails were exchanged with Tymur and Svitlana followed by a video call with the proposed arrangements explained. They travelled to London via Paris and Eurostar, taking the tube to Chiswick with a few small bags and some cakes for Louise.

As they settled in, she helped them with the tangled bureaucracy of relocation and called Latymer Upper School to see if they would have a place available for him. They did and he settled in quickly finding his classmates friendly. His musical ability and aptitude for Physics and Maths had already been apparent before he came to England but, nevertheless his achievement has surprised and delighted his teachers.

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