Tears fell as mum-of-two Oryslava, who lives in Goosnargh, near Preston, was reunited with her elderly Ukrainian mother Olga Kogut near the Polish border.
At first Olga, a 70 year old grandmother, had been adamant she would not leave Ukraine, despite the war and despite living alone in a flat in Lviv.
But she made the decision to leave her homeland when Lviv came under intense attack from Russian forces in late March and she witnessed first hand the danger she was in.
Oryslava said she had pleaded with her mum to leave weeks earlier. She said: “I was planning to get my mum over but she didn’t want to leave, people in Ukraine don’t want to leave their country. She was like I’ll stick it out where we are.”
But at the end of March, as the Russians extended their deadly attacks, things changed suddenly for the elderly widow.
Oryslava said: "There were two attacks on a fuel storage (facility) and a factory where they manufactured tanks. She had actually seen the rockets coming, she had actually seen them in the sky, and two minutes after I got a phone call – please come over and pick me up.”
Oryslava 45, travelled to the Polish border. She said: “I didn’t go to Ukraine. I stayed in Poland and one of our friends took her to the border. She crossed the border by foot. She only got some essential clothes and medicine she depends on. I met her on March 27 on the other side. She was shaking, very emotional, crying. She didn’t want to leave, that’s for sure. She said I can’t keep on like that any more. She’s 70, she’s had two strokes. She had been there on her own. I’m the only child in the family.”
From the border mother and daughter travelled to Warsaw, stayed overnight and got a flight to Amsterdam where Olga’s grandson Markiyan, 25, lives. Because of the visa situation in the UK Olga couldn’t come to England straight away.
Oryslava said: “We filled in the application for the visa, the family scheme. I stayed a day or two to help her settle a bit. My son was working so he couldn’t stay with her. At least she was safe in his flat.”
She continued: “We’ve been quite lucky I would say because the visa arrived seven days later, but it’s still seven days. My mum was lucky because we had somewhere to stay. If not where would she have stayed – one of the refugee camps? Then finally I went there and picked her up and got her here. Once she arrived here she said I’m safe now. I’m happy now. It’s a new place … I’m happy because I don't hear the sirens every night.”
Oryslava and her husband Ostap, 53, run a food company and owned and managed Eastern European shops in Lancashire and Manchester for many years. They now have a convenience store in Widnes. Oryslava said: “At the moment we are refusing to sell Russian foods.”
More relaxed because she does ”not have to worry” about her mother, for Oryslava and Ostap the grief and worry about the war in Ukraine remains.
The couple are both British and Ukrainian and Oryslava said: “Of course I do wake up at night because of what is happening at home. You can’t have a normal sleep now since it all started.”
Concerns remain too for her husband’s family whose parents and relatives remain in Ukraine.
The family, including daughter Yaryna, 21, have been working tirelessly to gather and send aid supplies to Ukraine, supporting an appeal set up by the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manchester of which they are members.
The couple’s two children attended Stonyhurst College, near Longridge, and families of pupils there there have also responded generously to the appeal.
But medical supplies, baby food and cash donations are still urgently needed. The cash donations are being used to buy food in Poland at wholesale prices for transport across the border. (For details of how to donate see below.)
The family have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local people and those from further afield. Such generosity means extra storage space is now needed in Goosnargh or Longridge to store donations ready for collection.
While juggling family, work and her aid work for Ukraine Oryslava says she is now looking forward to “a nice, quiet happy family Easter” which will be celebrated at the Ukrainian church in Manchester not this weekend, but next.
For her mum Lancashire is in part a home from home as Oryslava explained: “We are in a very rural place with lots of fields and nice views from the house. She was born in a village as well with no street lights – pretty much the same environment.”
There is no doubt says Oryslava that as soon as it is safe to do so her mother will want to return to Ukraine. But for the moment Lancashire is a welcome home from home. Oryslava said: "This has changed her life. She had no choice – for her own health and for a no stress life. “
How to help
To donate medical supplies or baby foods or offer storage space for donations contact Oryslava on: 07912 748635.
You can also make monetary donations to the north west Ukrainian Catholic Church appeal, which will go towards the aid work.
Account name: Ukrainian Catholic Church – Oldham
Account number: 10121396
Sort code: 160016
Charity number: 240088
Ref: Aid Ukraine 22