Ukrainian kids set for safe arrival in Scotland after Home Office visa hell

Two Ukrainian kids fleeing the war have finally made it to safety after the Record stepped in to sort out a Home Office visa wrangle.

Scottish couple Marie and Andy Kuzbyt made a mercy dash to collect niece and nephew Victoria and Yuri in Poland after they were given the green-light to leave for the UK.

The pair have battled to get visas for Yuri, nine, and Victoria, 14, overcoming Home Office red tape that blocked their way.

Yesterday they completed a heartbreaking handover by the children’s mum, Natalia, who was distraught as she put her trust in the Kuzbyts to look after then until they can be reunited.

Natalia, an English teacher in Lviv, made the heart-rending choice of staying to look after her mum, Sofia, who was too ill to travel.

She also has responsibility to keep teaching children in Ukraine, despite the constant threat of being targeted by Russian missiles.

Pictures of Ukrainian refugees Yuri and sister Victoria having a day out in Krakow before their mother Natalia heads back to Lviv and they head to Scotland with great aunt Marie.

The Record told earlier how the Home Office had bungled Yuri’s visa then point blank refused to send it – until we told of their plight.

Speaking from Krakow, in Poland, yesterday, Marie, 60, said: “It has been a really tough few days and our nerves are all frazzled but we’re hoping to be home with the kids in the next couple of days.

“Natalia has had a few tears and there will be more to follow from all of us.

“I think we’ve all had very mixed emotions but the main priority is to get Yuri and Victoria in a place of safety and then concentrate on next steps.

“Once we get them over to Scotland we will have to think of all the formalities to get them settled, including finding them places at school. We’ll be thinking very much of getting the kids back with their parents as soon as the situation allows.”

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Marie, from Kilmaurs in Ayrshire, said she had suffered great stress over the potential for the children to be refused passage at the airport.

She said: “We have read about the trafficking of children and we know there are safeguards in place for this at border checkpoints and airports – but it would be awful if they affected us.

“Natalia has written us a letter of authority to take the children and the Polish government has put an official stamp on it. We also have all the paperwork to provide we did the application for the children’s visas.

“And we have the Daily Record stories that prove beyond any doubt that we are who we say we are.

“We’ll all be able to breathe more easily and have a sigh of relief when the plane takes off.”

Natalia traveled from Lviv with the youngsters and they met in Krakow on Thursday night.

The family were all preparing themselves for heart-rending goodbyes – the kind that have affected millions of Ukrainians as wives, husbands, sons and daughters have been forced to separate at border points as the war wreaks havoc.

In Krakow, sharing the last few hours with mum Natalia

Marie said: “There are some big challenges ahead and we’re aware that traveling to Scotland doesn’t suddenly make everything perfect for Yuri and Victoria.

“They will miss their parents and they will have a different society to fit into but we can only do our best to help them settle.”

She added: “I showed them the pages of the Daily Record and Natalia sent them to family back home in Ukraine and I think they were touched that people in Scotland have so much support for their situation.

“It just isn’t right that families are being torn apart like this but we can only hope that better times will come sooner rather than later.”

The Record told earlier how a visa application for Yuri was approved by the Home Office after a process lasting almost a month.

Yuri and Victoria with visas

The UK government insisted it had been sent and they refused to issue a duplicate, meaning the process hit a brick wall until the Record intervened.

Marie and Andy became close to their Ukrainian family in recent years after taking several trips over to Lviv. Andy was born and brought up in Scotland after his own dad he fled here to escape Hitler during World War II.

The UK Home Office has been slammed for putting up obstacles to visa applications instead of fast-tracking them.

It emerged this week that less than one tenth of visa applications have been approved through the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme.

The Home Office said it is “moving as quickly as possible” to make the process more efficient, as the UK handed out just 2,700 passes through its initiative, against 28,000 applications.

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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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