Frustrating wait for Blackpool-bound Ukrainian refugees as dozens of visas issued

More than a dozen visas have been issued for Ukrainian refugees to stay with Blackpool residents but it’s a frustrating wait for those ‘literally fleeing a war’, say sponsors.

By Rebecca Thompson
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 4:55 am

Those seeking refuge include 50-year-old Larysa, from Kyiv, who hopes to travel as soon as possible but has faced a frustrating wait for 10-year-old son Hryhorii to be issued with his own. The family already have links to Lancashire and are hoping to make the trip as soon as possible to stay with friends.

They were lucky enough to already have connection here in UK as Larysa’s 26-year-old daughter Valeria Taylor, who now lives in North Carolina, USA, spent four years of her schooling near Fleetwood.

There she met good friend, Mary Murray, 26, who under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, is eagerly waiting to take in Larysa and Hryhorii into her Thornton home.

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Larysa and her two sons - she and the youngest are headed to Blackpool under Homes for Ukraine scheme

Mary was one of the first people to send a message to Valeria when the war broke out.

Valeria said: “I woke up with text messages saying that she was praying for my family. And I made a joke, and then obviously, I went on the internet, and I saw that Russia had invaded. When I called my mom, she was crying.”

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Larysa and her son left their home in Kyiv on March 17 and drove to the Polish border where they got on a volunteer bus to Cologne, Germany.

Larysa and Hryhorii

Valeria said: “Once my mom was in Germany, she cried a little bit, because it finally caught up to her.

"I don't think she was really processing what was happening when it was happening. I don't think my little brother really understands. But they're always moving, they're not really staying in one spot. They just don't have a home.”

“I think they're excited to go to England, because she will be staying with Mary and her family, who she knows. And she's been to Fleetwood before. I think she's happy about going back, even under different circumstances. I feel like it's gonna bring her a little comfort.”

However with the length of the process, Valeria talked about how frustrated she was getting.

Marry Murray is helping provide a home for Ukranians

She explained: “It's been very stressful, because they don't provide you with any information, where to call, where to check. And it's just really hard to find people who you're supposed to contact.”

But, for Valeria’s mum and brother, leaving Ukraine also comes with the worry of those they have left behind including her older brother.

She said, “He's in Kyiv, they have a volunteer battalion. So they're not necessarily fighting. They're not in front lines, they're going there and doing some volunteering, providing food, they're making sure that everyone's okay. But they do have, like the bulletproof vests and some weapons.

“It is a lot, but he's a brave, brave guy and I'm really proud of him. I think he found himself in these horrible circumstances. I think he finally feels where he belongs, he feels like he's making a change. So that was his choice. And as much as I would like him to be safe, I completely understand why he would do that. I support him.”

Valeria's brother had remained home in Ukraine to fight

Host Mary said: "I must be getting on my MP’s (Ben Wallace’s) nerves because I email him every day but they can't give a time scale. I was frustrated after the two week mark, if I'm honest. Because, you know, they're literally fleeing a war.”

She has spent the time the applications have been taking, to prepare her home for her guests.

She said “They’re living with my mum and my dad and me, the beds are all ready. My dad's actually already rung the doctors to try and get them enrolled.

“My friend and I went to school round here, so I messaged the headmaster. And then next thing I know, the boy’s going to our old school. I don't actually know him - Larysa was pregnant with him the last time I saw her.

“She really didn't want to leave (Ukraine) for a long time.

"She was like, ‘No, I'm staying here.’ Every night when they went into their apartment building basement - she was the oldest mum there. And they all sort of looked up to her, and she didn't get emotional and kept calm.

" So she kept saying ‘I don't want to leave because I feel like everyone's sort of relying on me’.”

Mary also said how much hope the Homes for Ukraine scheme has given her, “It's really, really shown me this whole process, that there's so many nice people around, that are willing. Like I know we're doing it, but I know them. People are willing to do this for strangers.

"It just shows that there are a lot of good people in Lancashire.”

The Homes for Ukraine scheme, was announced in February by the UK Government, allowing citizens to volunteer to house refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Sponsors agree to offer accommodation for at least six months, with those receiving sponsorship allowed to live, work and study in the UK for up to three years.