Ukrainian mum flees to Lanarkshire as Russia continues invasion

A Ukrainian mum and her young daughter have managed to flee their war-torn country and seek refuge in Bothwell.

Originally married to a Scot, Natasha Kukharchuk fled from her homeland two weeks ago just as Russia began their invasion on Ukraine and found herself coming to Scotland for safety and to be close to her sister-in-law, Jill McKenna, and extended family.

The mother-of-one packed what she could and left Ukraine with six-year-old daughter Sophie, but was forced to leave behind her mum, who was too anxious to leave the country, and her brother who is required to stay and fight .

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Kiev native Natasha – where Vladimir Putin’s forces have undertaken a bombing campaign that has seen hundreds of civilians hurt and killed – visited M&Ds over the weekend to volunteer at their drop off center for donations for the Ukraine Appeal.

Along with daughter Sophie, the pair worked tirelessly organizing and sorting boxes of goods, as well as packing up the first lorry of aid which left for Poland on Saturday.

Natasha got involved thanks to her sister-in-law, Jill, of Bothwell, who is close friends with Sue Taylor from M&Ds.

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When Jill and Sue heard of the devastation in Ukraine and learned first hand from Natasha how difficult it was for people to seek refuge, the two of them got together to transform two marquees at the Theme Park into a drop off center for donations.

Volunteers sort the donations at M&Ds Scotland’s Theme Park

However, within only three hours of opening last Friday they had to pause receiving donations as they were overwhelmed with deliveries and drop offs from the community with both marquees filled to capacity.

Sue Taylor from M&Ds told Lanarkshire Live : ““Listening to Natasha on the phone to her family and friends back home is all the motivation we need and we couldn’t believe how quickly people rallied round as soon as they heard we had set up the donation centre.

“In fact, within only 24 hours on Saturday our first transit van left for Poland with first aid items.

“We have more lorries leaving in the next few days and we’ll post on social media when we are able to receive donations again.

“Our volunteers have been working round the clock to sort and pack all the items in the right way to ensure the deliveries get through Border customs.

“This is all new to us and we’ve had to learn as we go, but with everyone pulling together, particularly with the help of the local Polish community, we are getting there.

Natasha and Sophie volunteering at the Ukrainian Appeal

Friend and Natasha’s sister-in-law, Jill added: “The family are just so relieved that Natasha and Sophie were able to get out in time but it’s still devastating to hear the stories of all the family and friends still there.

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“We are so grateful to everyone who has helped in so many ways, from donating their time, and basic items like boxes, as well as the many, many donations.

“It’s been a frantic weekend trying to manage all the red tape for the vehicles to leave but Natasha managed to get the Ukrainian Embassy involved which has helped with the paperwork.”

Natasha also had the chance to chat with Councilor Jordan James Linden, leader of the opposition (SNP) at North Lanarkshire Council, who visited M&Ds at the weekend to lend his support to the volunteers packing up the appeal donations.

Councillor Linden said: “I was humbled to visit the Ukrainian Appeal Center set up by local people in conjunction with M&D’s.

“Walking into these large marquees, full of aid – from medicines to baby items, clothes and food – and seeing the volunteers working hard to package and prepare them for their onward journey – a journey that sadly is being held up by red tape – was saddening but inspiring.

“There is truly a huge effort underground.

“Meeting Natasha and Sophie, who have had to leave Kyiv to come to Scotland for safety, and hearing about their experiences including that her mother stayed behind due to anxiety and difficulties leaving the country, was deeply moving and honestly quite heartbreaking.

“They remain in my thoughts ever since our meeting.

“I reflect that we have all collectively began to emerge from a global pandemic, that I believed showed the best in people, people coming together. And yet here we are, in 2022, seeing armed conflict on the European Continent.

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“We must have dialogue and we must have peace.

“Lanarkshire and indeed all of Scotland, stands in solidarity with Ukraine.”

Details of when the drop off center will re-open to receive donations will be posted on M&Ds social media accounts – @mdsthemepark.

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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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