Nitsa Michael, owner of the Seaward Hotel in Weston-super-Mare, England has stopped taking guests at the the height of their busy season. Instead, she has taken in 22 Ukrainians seeking refuge from the war. Her family fled from Cyprus to Britain following a Turkish invasion in 1974, and she wanted to do something to help people in the same ‘horror situation’, fleeing from Russian aggression in Ukraine this year.
The 84 year old widow and great-grandmother of five said she felt for them and wanted to help in a big way. At her mother’s request, her daughter Michelle Michael, who is in charge of running the hotel, registered their family’s hotel on the Homes For Ukraine webpage. Before they knew it, they were welcoming their first refugee.
The hotel has room for 70 refugees and their door is still open. Michelle said “The 22 arrivals share meals and time together, and basically they heal together. Mum always has and still does listen to the news every day and it was really bothering her. She was feeling quite sad about it all, and that’s when she came up with the idea of opening the hotel to refugees. Seeing all the people staying here and how happy they are now, it’s all due to her.”
Decades earlier, Nitsa worked as a seamstress in London and her husband Axentis was a chef before they eventually moved to the South West where they took over the Seaward Hotel. They made it their family home where they raised their four children. Nitsa said seeing the refugees fleeing reminded her of the anxiety back in ‘74 when Turkey invaded. “We had no way of knowing if my father’s family were dead or alive because there was no connectivity. Everyone fled their homes with nothing to their names.”
Michelle said Nitsa visits the hotel once a week and makes sure to meet every guest and listen to their stories. She loves to see the children around in the hotel as it reminds her of raising her own four children there. She said it really has brought the hotel back to life.