Santa visits playgroup for Ukrainian families living in New Britain

Originally posted on News8

It’s that time of year again, as we approach the holidays, Santa has started making his rounds.

And on Thursday, he’s surprising Ukrainian refugees living in New Britain.

A playgroup for Ukraine refugees got a surprise visit when St. Nick stopped by the New Britain Family Wellness Center. He came to spread the holiday cheer, all while handing out toys to the children.

The families he visited were forced to flee their war-torn native country this year, many of them finding a home in Connecticut.

To help these new families acclimate, the Community Health Center created a free playgroup for Ukraine refugees and their children under five years old. It’s a supportive place for refugees and a way to help them connect with their community.

“Just to get out of the house and connect with other Ukrainian families that just from a mental health perspective is huge,” noted Community Wellness and Engagement Program Coordinator Nat Holmes, with the Community Health Center.

Another plus is that there are Ukrainian families already at the Family Wellness Center, including a translator named Oxana. Oxana lived at the center longer in order to make others’ transition easier.

After moving to Connecticut in June, one Ukrainian mother was relieved to be out of a war zone. And her son is adjusting to the change well.

“He’d remember sometimes the bad situation in Ukraine, the war, here it’s different. He likes it here he likes to play with the kids he likes to live here,” said mother Olena Balatsko.

The weekly playgroup is held every Thursday morning from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Organizers said they are hoping to expand their outreach, and welcome more Ukrainian families in the future.