Lena’s Journey from war in Ukraine to UK visa nightmare

Written by on 8th April 2022

Lena proudly showing her support for her native Ukraine – Image Credit -Lena Archbold

A mother’s journey from war in Ukraine back to the safety of the U.K. that is fraught with danger and problems obtaining a visa.

After fleeing Putin’s murderous war machine, the next fight was securing a U.K. visa for her sister-in-law and two children.

This after Lena had made the more than 2,000 mile journey from the U.K. to the Romanian boarder with Ukraine.

Lena said: “We have here children six and eight years old, who’ve been three weeks on the road two weeks with me and one week around Ukraine. I mean, to get out from Kiev took three days and then a few days on the border so nobody knows what they’re doing in terms of visa’s for Ukraine and refugees.

“In terms of visas, could they not just grant those at the point of entry in the airport or when we get the ferry and then do checks, they will get an address, I mean customs not passport control. They will have an address where people stay, have my address and make me responsible and do checks rather than keeping people in another country, keeping us in Netherlands and doing security checks and what on, six and eight year old children.”

During this time Lena has been in regular contact with Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, to get advice and support with Visa’s.

Hodgson said: “Since Lena got in touch with me regarding Daria, Sofiia and Nikita, myself and the team have kept a close eye on any updated information from the Home Office to pass on to Lena regarding the application process and supported this with letters to the Home Office where possible.

“I know Lena has been incredibly frustrated with the lack of information being shared by the Home Office relating to her family’s visa applications and the time it has taken to process them – I share in those frustrations.”

Hodgson added: “There are serious questions that need to be asked of the Government as to why it has taken so long to implement an online pathway for visa applications when the Home Secretary has known for months that she needed to prepare for a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The financial impact of waiting in the Netherlands whilst trying to secure a visa for her family has been tremendous.

Lena said: “I’m not bringing an income anymore because I’m self-employed. My credit card was blocked because I spent too much apparently too fast. I spent over two and a half thousand pounds for accommodations, food and transport. So, I went to try to use It, and did not work. It’s embarrassing.”

A young child with her father protesting against the war – Image Credit – Marcus Mattila / Alamy Stock Photo

The impact of the war has been traumatic on all Ukrainians, but most affected are the innocent children caught up in this war.

The long term phycological effects on the children are a concern to many, but this is something that Lena and her family are already experiencing.

Lena said: “These children are traumatised my nephew is eight years old I’m sorry saying this, but he never wet the bed, but he started to wet the bed at night and waking up at night screaming to ask Mom do we need to run to the bomb shelter.

“That’s happening especially at Night-Time. So, these children have been traumatised, he saw the explosions. They heard all this at eight years old and Six years old, a Six-year-old girl. So, they need support, some counselling.”

It is recognised that the phycological damage as result of the war will require a multi-agency approach, to support both children and adults.

Campaigner Simon Paul Cyhanko said: “It’s been well documented that a lot of people coming from Ukraine or staying in Ukraine ultimately because of what’s happening are going to be emotionally scarred, for years to come if not for life. And there’s going to be a need for different organisations with different skills to support people and to help them overcome the terror that they have faced over recent weeks.

““We all accept that there is going to be a need more and more help such as phycologists and social workers to help people overcome the terror that they’ve overcome recently.”

Protesters in London highlighting Russia’s involvement in the killing of children in Ukraine – Image Credit – Keith Bays

Concerns have also been raised about Ukrainian children falling behind with their education because of not attending school due to the fighting.

Lena said: “I’m bringing children and I’m thinking okay these children have been learning English. They need school. What kind of school, I cannot put them in the class of 30 children just because they need a little bit more attention?

“These children need some even English lessons to get better, I know they will get fast as children learn fast.”

This is something recognised by campaigner Simon Paul Cyhanko who said: “Some of these kids will not be fluent English speakers and they are going to have a challenge initially to learn the language, and they are clearly going to be behind other native brits who are fluent English speakers.

““If we are serious about giving them the help that they need, then they are going to need some serious support when they first get into the U.K.”

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