Ukrainian refugees flee to Poland with a nagging feeling they have 'betrayed' their country – Steve Cardownie

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Having taken the difficult decision to flee their country and seek safety elsewhere, my Ukrainian in-laws crossed the border into Poland last week and are now in Warsaw where they are making preparations to come to Edinburgh.

Ira and her 14-year-old son Yura, along with Katya and her two children Emma, nine, and Timofiy, nine months, are relieved that they can now go to sleep, peacefully, in a bedroom, and not in a cellar with the sound of missiles exploding all around them.

This particular housing support in Poland is due to my wife’s Russian friend, Yana (who has been incredibly supportive throughout) and her husband John, who were able to arrange accommodation for my in-laws through their Polish friends Ela and Anna, who made rooms in their houses available to them, where they could stay until their visas were issued.

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This act of hospitality and generosity overwhelmed the family and has gone a long way to comfort them in their time of need.

Mothers Ira and Katya have been paying visits to Warsaw railway station which has been used as a meeting point for Ukrainian refugees where buggies, baby clothes and baby food are made freely available.

Medical assistance is also provided as well as information and assistance for onward travel to other parts of the country and further afield. Hot drinks and food are dispensed and those who are moving on are provided with baskets of food and drink to see them through the journey.

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I should mention Ela’s son, Janek and his girlfriend, Ada, who have also devoted a great deal of time to make everyone feel comfortable, cooking big meals, dealing with all the family’s questions and helping them to get acquainted with Warsaw.

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Steve Cardownie's Ukrainian relatives pictured in Poland after fleeing Russian forces in UkraineSteve Cardownie's Ukrainian relatives pictured in Poland after fleeing Russian forces in Ukraine
Steve Cardownie's Ukrainian relatives pictured in Poland after fleeing Russian forces in Ukraine

Their warm reception has reassured the family that they are not alone and that the Polish people have taken them to their hearts and will do everything that they possibly can to help alleviate their suffering.

Ira and Katya told me that they are extremely sad to have been forced to leave Ukraine but felt that they had to do so for the sake of the children.

They have mixed feelings now that they are in Poland, relieved that they are safe but deep down they have a nagging feeling that they may have regretfully “betrayed” their country and their menfolk by not staying behind and aiding the fightback against the Russian invading forces – but they said that the welfare of the children was a priority.

They were pleasantly surprised yesterday to receive the welcome news from the UK Visa Centre that the necessary paperwork had been completed satisfactorily and that their visas were ready to be collected, clearing the way for them to make their way to Edinburgh.

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They are obviously delighted that the cloud of uncertainty surrounding their immediate future has been lifted and, albeit that they are determined to return home as soon as possible, they are grateful for the kinship and the help that they have been given by their new Polish friends and look forward to forming new, similar friendships here in Scotland.

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