Monday, 04 July 2022

Host’s two-month wait for Ukrainian family

Host’s two-month wait for Ukrainian family

A WOMAN is angry that a Ukrainian family she planned to host has still not received visas to enter Britain after waiting almost two months.

Judi Green, 45, of Swanston Field, Whitchurch, applied to sponsor Anna Goldenberg and her two children on March 22 but has still not heard whether they can come.

Mrs Goldenberg, 37, and Mariia, 13, and Mark, six, are staying in a hostel in Warsaw while the father, Oleg, 39, has stayed in Ukraine to fight the Russians.

Mrs Green, a teacher, said: “It’s so frustrating, so sad. I just feel like no one’s listening — that no one in the government is listening. If anything happens to them, I’m going to hold the Government responsible.

“I already hold them responsible for the danger and the sadness that the family are currently facing. I don’t blame the civil servants — I know that people are working hard, it’s the system that’s wrong.”

Mrs Goldenberg was a photographer and children’s art teacher in Ukraine and the family lived near the capital Kyiv.

Mariia loves art and Mark is said to be a bright boy who is good at mathematics.

In March, a Russian bomb landed close to the family’s house and this is when Mrs Goldenberg and the children left the city.

Mrs Green came into contact with the family through someone she met. She had already been contacting the authorities to try to arrange a refugee visa through a scheme in Oxfordshire before the Ukrainian Sponsorship Scheme was set up.

Her only option was to make an application but she found the process very difficult.

“I think everyone over here was just desperate to help so we filled out the applications but that was it. We never heard anything else.

“We stayed up all night and I think it would be virtually impossible for Ukrainians to fill it out on their own – it’s really complicated,” she said.

Mrs Goldenberg and her children made their way to Lviv and stayed there until it was bombed as well and they decided to leave Ukraine.

They crossed the border with Poland on foot and stayed for a couple of weeks with a family until it became overcrowded and they had to move to a refugee hostel.

In the hostel, they have two small beds between them and a small kitchen which has wires sticking out of the wall.

Mark calls it “house of my nightmares”. Mrs Goldenberg has tried to keep the children hopeful but told Mrs Green that they had become depressed and she was now struggling too.

Mrs Green said: “She feels a panic that she has been forgotten. She says regularly that she doesn’t know what to do.

“She doesn’t know whether to go back to Ukraine, which is dangerous, or still try to come here. I really think if she’d known it was going to be this bad, she’d have gone to a different country. Her boy needs medication for a severe allergy and they’ve run out of money. She can’t help but cry at everything.”

In Poland, Ukrainian refugees can use the train and visit museums free so Mrs Goldenberg has been taking the children around the city.

Mariia is being sent some work to do from her old school in Ukraine.

Mrs Green, who lives with her husband, Matt, 45, and their three children, May, 15, Jimmy, 13, and Jennifer, 11, had secured a place for Mariia at Langtree School in Woodcote, which Jimmy attends, but this expired yesterday (Thursday). Mark still has a place at Whitchurch Primary School.

Mrs Green, who is a teacher at Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common, said: “Both schools have been really proactive and have contacted me a lot asking about the children’s needs and what they like but this has taken too long.

“I had sent the children photos of the schools to get them excited and they were so excited about coming here but now I think they’ve just lost hope and are homesick. It’s just so sad.”

Mrs Green has contacted the Home Office, the visa application helpline and Henley MP John Howell.

She said: “Those of us who have been calling the helpline 20 times a week for the last few weeks call it the ‘unhelpful line’. People on the other end are really nice people who want to help but they cannot tell you anything.

“They can’t even take the application numbers to see if they’ve been registered, so you’re in the dark. I wake up in the night checking my emails and checking my phone. I’m constantly contacting people and messaging Anna but at times you feel like giving up, it’s just so draining.”

“If someone could tell me they’re never going to come and tell her to find someone else, I would do that. It would break my heart but I would do it.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “In response to Putin’s barbaric invasion, we launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history. In as little as two months, more than 102,000 visas have been issued so Ukrainians can live and work in the UK.

“The changes the Home Office has made to streamline the visa system, including simplifying the forms and boosting staff numbers, are working and we are now processing visas as quickly as they come in, enabling thousands more Ukrainians to come through our uncapped routes.”

There have been 377 visas issued for Ukrainians to live in South Oxfordshire. This was announced by South Oxfordshire district councillor Leigh Rawlings at a meeting of Sonning Common Parish Council on Monday.

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