Lanarkshire artist helps family flee Ukraine while fundraising for refugee appeal


A Lanarkshire artist who helped family flee a warzone in Ukraine is now auctioning off a painting to help an appeal for refugees.

Sue Neal has been desperately working in recent weeks to get her daughter-in-law and her relatives out of Ukraine during the Russian invasion.

From her home in Crossford near Lanark, Sue was able to arrange for a minibus in France to travel to the Polish border in Krakow where many had fled their country.

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A rapid appeal went out to fill the bus with food and supplies for those fleeing before picking up seven refugees to take them safely to France and Germany, five of those being relatives of Sue.

Her son Tom Neal works with his Ukrainian wife Viktoriya Patlan at a ski resort in the French Alps. But their priority has been to get Viktoriya’s family out of their home from her in Kyiv since the war began last month.

Sue’s daughter-in-law Viktoriya Patlan and son Tom Neal

Desperate to help, Sue flew out to join the rescue mission where Viktoriya’s mum Oksan; nine-year-old sister Kristina; grandmother (also called Viktoriya); great aunt Lola and her daughter Olay were all taken to safety, along with two other refugees who were dropped in Paris on the way back.

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After seeing the troubles of the war first hand, Sue now wants to help in any way she can and is looking forward to raising money through her paintings for the Humanitarian Appeal.

A bus was arranged to transport seven people from the border safely to France

Speaking of the experience, Sue told Lanarkshire Live: “Tom and Viktoriya were aiming to go back to Kyiv after the ski season.

“But Viktoria’s family were in Ukraine and really needed to get out.

“So I rang a friend of mine who has a travel company in the ski resort, they usually take people to and from the airport.

“I told her this is the most bizarre transfer request she’s ever going to get. I said I’ve got five people to get from the Polish border to the French Alps.

“We were able to get a bus and a friend of mine Paul Lake said ‘yes’ to do the driving straight away. He then rank his friend from him, also called Paul who is Ukrainian, and he also joined.

“They were able to fill the whole bus with lots of food, nappies, medical supplies, everything, to such an extent the bus was overloaded and needed a new set of brake pads by the time it got to Krakow.

“The mechanic in Karkow ended up doing it all for free. They picked the family up after dropping off all the supplies. They had two spare seats so they were able to pick up another two refugees fleeing and dropped them off in Nuremberg in Germany.

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“Everyone was so good, it was fantastic. It was amazing to see it all.

“The only sad thing is they’ve had to leave their dad in Ukraine as he’s under 60 and ex-military. He’s still there organizing things, as is their pet parrot who they had to leave behind!”

Sue’s painting depicts a mother and daughter running through a field of sunflowers (the national flower of Ukraine) – poignant of the current times.

It is currently displayed within the Tolbooth in Lanark where locals can make offers through a silent auction for a number of paintings at the exhibition, with all proceeds going to help refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Sue’s Sunflower painting is being auctioned off to help the Ukranian appeal

Sue explained: “I am not a political artist but this piece is to raise funds for the Ukrainian refugees. It is a subject close to my heart since I have Ukrainian family.

“The aptly named ‘getaway vans’ in the French town of Morzine offered a minibus to go and get them. This bus is usually used to transport excited tourists from Geneva airport to a holiday resort.

“Despite everything, they picked up the family and filled the minibus with others fleeing the war.

“These people are some of the lucky ones, not sleeping in shopping centers of railway stations, or being bombed in their own country.

“So much help is needed at reception centers in all countries bordering Ukraine.

“Thoughts and prayers are with my daughter-in-law’s father and all the Ukrainian people still in this dreadful situation.”

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For more information on Sue’s work for the appeal you can email her at [email protected] or visit her website here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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