Ukraine-Russia conflict: ‘We are the lucky ones’, says Scot who fled Ukraine with his family

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A Scot who fled war-torn Ukraine with his newborn baby has made it to safety in Poland – after waiting more than 38 hours at the border.

Ken Stewart, from Edinburgh, who has lived in Ukraine for 15 years, began the journey to the Polish border on Saturday with his wife Tanya and two young children Yaryna, three, and two-week old Douglas. The family was forced to join a queue of hundreds of cars trying to get into Poland, which is a member of the European Union.

In the early hours of Monday morning, Mr Stewart said: “We made it into Poland last night, 38 hours in the queue. We are the lucky ones. Spare a thought for those thousands who are still in that queue, and many other lines from Moldova to Poland. I didn’t see anyone lose it, no fights, no selfishness, but a sense of all being in it together.

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“Ukrainians are an example for the world to follow. I imagine you have all worked that out by now. They appear to be built differently from the rest of us.

Ken Stewart, with his wife, Tanya, who gave birth to their second child two weeks ago.Ken Stewart, with his wife, Tanya, who gave birth to their second child two weeks ago.
Ken Stewart, with his wife, Tanya, who gave birth to their second child two weeks ago.

"Yara, our three-year-old, should be a model for children everywhere. She kept a smile on her face almost the whole time and never really complained. Clearly takes after her mother.”

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The couple had already begun the process to get a British visa for Tanya, but had been offered an appointment at the British Embassy in Kiev on Friday – the day after Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a wide-ranging attack across Ukraine. Although, as the spouse of a British citizen, she is entitled to a visa, the family does not know how easy, or quick, the process will be.

The Scottish Government has urged the Home Office to lift visa requirements for all Ukrainians seeking entry to the UK. It is understood the UK is reviewing its Ukrainian refugee scheme.

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Mr Stewart said: “Today we are torn between relief for getting our children to safety and guilt for leaving so many behind. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. Our children drove those decisions. Completely.”

“We have left behind in-laws [Tanya’s parents, brother, his wife and their ten-year-old son]. Leaving him there hurts, but they wanted to stay together.

"They now spend their days in a bomb shelter in the basement of a kindergarten in our village. Yes, a kindergarten. Shelling and bombing in the surrounding area keeps them there. What keeps our hopes up is the fact that the Russians have met their match, more than their match in the Ukrainians. They will not give up the country without a mighty fight. They are literally fighting for the survival of their country.”

Mr Stewart, who earlier posted pictures of his two-week-old son, said the family was getting settled in a hotel, where they were having hot showers after the arduous journey.

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He said: “Then we will get down to the business of getting Tanya a visa for UK – as if we don’t have enough to worry about.”

Mr Stewart added: “My wife is Ukrainian and I’m a UK citizen – both children have UK citizenship. But the UK Government absolutely refuses to make the process easier for my wife to get a visa.”

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