Ukrainian pensioners who fled 2000 miles to Scotland fear home is gone forever

An elderly Ukrainian couple who fled more than 2000 miles to safety in Scotland fear nothing will be left of their home if they ever get to return.

Viacheslav Malyna, 83, and Zhanna Malyna, 81, started a horror journey from their flat in the battered city of Kharkiv in north-east Ukraine after Russian shelling began at the end of February.

They managed to flee to Hungary before eventually arriving in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, where daughter Anna White lives with her husband Geoff.

The couple are now worried that their Ukrainian home could be gone and are fearful about the fate of their friends.

Viacheslav and Zhanna after they left their home in Kharkiv.

Viacheslav said: “We are very sad when we hear what is happening back home. Part of the area of ​​Donbas where I grew up has been destroyed.

“We have telephone links with some of our friends and they do not know what the next day will bring.”

The Malynas were forced to abandon the ninth-floor flat of their tower block home after shelling began on the first day of the Russian invasion on February 24. They left without any money, clothes or medication.

They took refuge in the basement of a relative’s house in another part of the city to escape the missiles.

On March 6, as the shelling became worse, they were driven to the Hungarian border. The journey took three days and passed through areas being attacked by the Russian military.

After a spell in a Hungarian refugee centre, the couple were taken by bus to the town of Godello, near Budapest, where they were joined by Anna, who had flown from Scotland.

But they then had to wait another two weeks, until March 24, before they were given the green light to come here by UK immigration officials.

The family had to fight to get the correct paperwork – even though they have visited Scotland regularly in the past 18 years to see Anna, Geoff and teenage granddaughter Emilia.

Viacheslav said: “I wasn’t sure we would get a visa. We were nervous waiting all the time. I was thinking about what
It happens if we are not allowed to travel to the UK and be with our family.”

The couple were given a six-month visa by the UK Government and arrived in Edinburgh on March 26 – over a month after they left their home.

Viacheslav, a retired mechanical engineer, added: “We are very glad to be here and have been made to feel very welcome.

“We know Scotland from our previous visit and that is why we feel so safe and comfortable.

“It is now two months since we left our home and we don’t know if, or when, we will be able to go back.

“No one believed at the time that the Russians would attack a city of 1.4 million people but they did.

“Then we had to find a place that was safe to live.”

Now that they are settled in Scotland, the Malynas plan to apply for a three-year visa and state pensions.

They also hope to open a bank account and register with a GP.

Anna, who has lived in Scotland for 18 years and is a charity administrator, said: “People here have made them feel very welcome.

“Kharkiv is close to ruins and we cannot even dream just now about making plans for the future and my parents’ return.

“There were a lot of problems to overcome in getting them here. A lot of unnecessary obstacles were put in our way.

“We are just grateful that we have got mum and dad here safely and can look after them.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel apologized earlier this month over delays with the visa scheme but latest figures from the UK Government said more than 21,000 had arrived.

Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine after the capital Kyiv, has been one of the worst-hit cities in the war with Russia.

Located only 25 miles from the Russian border, it has been decimated by airstrikes and shelling and dozens of civilians have been killed, with hundreds injured.

Viacheslav said the residents are suffering greatly from the bombing and he has heard of former work colleagues who have been killed.

Latest pictures show a burnt out-city which is still being bombarded.

Regional governor Oleh Synehubov said yesterday that two people were killed and 19 more were wounded by shelling.

He said that over the past day the Russian forces fired at the region’s civilian infrastructure 56 times.

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Meanwhile, Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk Oblast in eastern Ukraine, wrote on the messaging app Telegram: “In addition to the fact that street fighting continues in the city (of Popasna) for several weeks, the Russian army constantly fires at multi-storey residential buildings and private houses.”

He added: “Just yesterday local residents withstood five enemy artillery attacks. Not all survived.”

And last week Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said 18 people had been killed and more than 100 wounded in shelling over the previous four-day period.

He said Russia’s shelling on Kharkiv had been constant.

He added: “This is nothing but deliberate terror: mortars, artillery against ordinary residential quarters, against ordinary civilians.”

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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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