Ukraine conflict: Bonnybridge family’s struggle with UK’s Homes for Ukraine visa scheme

Through actual minefields to the tricky passage of negotiating the UK’s Homes for Ukraine visa scheme, she is finally safe with her future in-laws whom, until March 30 she had only previous spoken to on Zoom calls..

While she is the first to arrive under the initiative in the Falkirk Council area only another six have currently been granted for this area.

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Helen MacKinven, whose son Lewis hopes to marry Natasha later this year, said the visa process had been very difficult.

Natasha Matiusha outside the Bonnybridge home of her future in-laws Helen and Donald MacKinven.

A published writer, she said: “I really feel bad for people who don’t have good English. Natasha has an excellent command of spoken and written English but the system was not easy for us.

“We were ready to begin the minute the system went live on March 18 and she heard on March 28 that her visa was granted. It was my birthday and was certainly the best present I could hope for.”

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Helen and husband Donald, a retired civil engineer, were desperate to help bring Natasha to the UK but felt the government moved slowly to implement the scheme.

Natasha Matiusha, who is the first Ukrainian to arrive in the Falkirk area under the visa scheme, recalling the moment she had to leave her home and brother.

“Natasha could have been accepted by other countries much quicker,” said Helen. “Ella She had the option of going to Ireland or Spain where there appeared to be much less bureaucracy.

“I feel very angry about it all and how complex the process is.

“At one stage we were asked for a pdf of her passport. How is someone who has perhaps no access to the internet supposed to suddenly produce this?

“There is all this ‘We stand with Ukraine’ but the UK government appears to be saying ‘We stand with Ukraine but you are staying there’.”

Helen said during her video calls with Natasha she became concerned about her health.

“She appeared to be suffering from post-traumatic stress and her skin color was grey. We were very worried about her and how she was coping.”

Natasha admitted that at one stage she had gone without food for three days, not because she had nothing but she felt unable to eat because of the fear for her circumstances.

She also feels fortunate that she is with her new family, as friends have found themselves given refuge with strangers.

“One friend is in Germany and she is grateful for people giving her a place to stay but finds it difficult as she doesn’t like the food,” explained Natasha.

“Others say they try to be unnoticed as they don’t want to be any trouble for the families they find themselves with.”

Donald said: “When I picked Natasha up at the airport she had one suitcase and I remember thinking how do you pack your life into one suitcase?”

Helen added: “Everyone who watches all these terrible scenes on television wants to do what they can. Some people give money, others donate goods. I suppose our small part is having Natasha here.

“Natasha is family and we are delighted she is now safe and to help her. But I don’t know if it would be as easy if it was a stranger and trying to help them cope with what they have been through.”

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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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