OPINION: Royals should open homes and palaces for Ukrainian refugees
- Credit: Ian Burt
Why is it always those who have the least that give the most to help others?
Step forward all those compassionate families, couples and individuals who have been frenetically reorganising their homes to make space to take in Ukrainian refugees arriving with nothing apart from what they can carry.
What Ukrainian people are enduring is beyond any of our comprehension, fleeing from their homes, lives and country as enemy neighbours obliterate all you have and know with tanks, bombs and missiles.
Hoards more people who don’t have the space, capacity, or time to offer a roof over heads, are busy organising help with paperwork, buying school uniforms and sports kits for children, volunteering for English lessons and welcoming traumatised people into the safety of their communities to help them rebuild in an alien land.
Human generosity never ceases to amaze. What some people will do for others, the sacrifices they make for people don’t even know with no expectation of anything in return is incredible.
Comic Relief last week, normal people living normal lives raised a phenomenal £48.2 million as we move into the toughest financial climate we’ve felt for decades.
These are the people living on a shoestring who still donate weekly to food banks and give to charity.
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This milk of human kindness comes from those who understand exactly what it’s like to have nothing, and, although they might have very little themselves now, want to share it.
Sadly, this can’t be said for those with stashes of millions, for whom the cost of helping stricken people would amount to the change down the back of the sofa.
There are exceptions. Actor and comedian Bradley Walsh threw light on his friend Marcus Costello this week, who is spending £5,000 every day to help house 150 Ukrainians refugees in Poland by putting them up in hotels.
In the last couple of weeks, on sunny bright early dog walks in Southwold and Aldeburgh the number of empty homes felt like a deserted film set. All inhabited second and holiday homes.
It felt so obscene. So many people displaced and so much unoccupied space, but never the twain shall meet.
There are rumblings that Prince Charles is looking at opening some royal properties for refugees.
We need to hear that the richest of the rich with literally hundreds of spare rooms and homes embrace refugees.
This would be the best move they could make.
To demonstrate empathy, generosity and altruism in a time of such acute humanitarian crisis would show a side to the royal family the nation desperately needs to see, especially in the Platinum Jubilee year,
We don’t need to see the Cambridges in the Caribbean for a dollop of PR.
We know that the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William have made their “generous donations” to the Disaster Emergency Committee's (DEC) and have spoken openly about their opposition to the war.
What we need to see is them throwing open the doors of royal residences for the Ukrainian refugees escaping the conflict.
We talk about a global village when it suits us. Stricken people need shelter, the royal family has plenty.
Palaces and country houses have hundreds of empty bedrooms that could provide refuge, warmth and comfort for people fleeing atrocities.
To throw open houses shrouded in dust sheets, that don’t experience human breath from one year to the next – to allow children to run in the garden – to offer rehabilitation is a gesture would speak volumes for their place and position
The Queen will mark her 70th year on throne at a horrendous time for her people, with hardship not seen for generations, spiralling energy costs, interest rates and families having to choose between heat and eating, with Europe on the verge – or already in – a third world war.
Unprecedented times deserve unprecedented action and leadership by the royal family.
Across the North Sea, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgian have already announced that three royal residences will become available for housing Ukrainian refugees from early April, while the Dutch Royal Family has announced it will offer a home to six to eight Ukrainian families in a baroque 15th Century castle that they use as a summer house.
But nothing has been confirmed in Britain so far.
For the Queen to respond to the largest refugee crisis since the second world war with shelter would show a humanity of a modern Monarchy. It’s not about PR and image boosting.
It’s about doing what’s right to alleviate suffering by those with the means to do so.
We can’t underestimate the trauma experienced by the people that need our help.
The royal family may not care less what people think about them, but leadership, example, solidarity and basic kindness needs to come from the top.
How wonderful would that be – uplifting and a light in a world of despair – and a step that the rest of the aristocracy and rich should follow.
Kind words and donations are all well and good.
A compassionate in touch royal family doing what is right because they can speaks volumes
It acknowledges what ordinary people across the UK, under huge financial pressure and stress, are doing for other ordinary people under attack.