Published: 15:56, 23 June 2022
| Updated: 00:52, 24 June 2022
Wimbledon organisers have handed out hundreds of free tickets to Ukrainian refugees in a bid to welcome them to their new homes.
The tickets were presented at an afternoon tea held in Merton, south-west London, for the borough’s recent arrivals and their host families.
Food included the classic Wimbledon dish strawberries and cream, while white, green and purple bunting was draped from the ceiling in the tournament’s distinctive colours.
The tables were decorated with tennis balls, which were taken by two young boys to bounce on their miniature racquets.
Slawek Szczepanski, chief executive of the Polish Family Association – which organised the event, was impressed by the resilience of the refugees.
“Those people came a few weeks ago, totally shattered, and now they’re able to join us for tea,” he said.
“They left the country with nothing, they needed to go, they don’t have anything to go back to, they don’t know if their family’s still alive.
“That kind of trauma is an awful experience, and seeing them now overcoming those issues and trying to fit in, it’s amazing.”
Merton has taken at least 400 Ukrainians, while more than 100 local families have opened their doors for those fleeing the war.
In a couple of weeks, the refugees will be able to spend the day at No.1 Court – a chance to see some “amazing tennis”, according to Wimbledon Foundation head Paige Murphy.
She added: “It’s an incredibly proud moment for us – it’s really part of our mission… to give people a really special experience after a really traumatic few months.
“To be able to provide a unique day when they can hopefully have a bit of respite and really get some enjoyment out of it is incredibly inspiring for us.”