Ukrainian family split up as two arrive in Wales, but five-year-old is stranded without a visa

A five-year-old girl from Ukraine who is desperate to come to Wales has been separated from her family after a six-week wait for a visa. Little Maprha Oewehko did not receive the document after her heartbreaking ordeal to leave the war-torn country.

But her mother Diana Oewehko, 27, along with her aunt Anna Byvaltceva, 37, and Anna’s eight-year-old son Maksym Byvaltcev were all free to leave Poland for Wales. This has led to the two sisters going their separate ways as the wait for a visa continues.

Anna, who is now in Swansea with Maksym while Diana and Maprha continue to wait in Poland, said she hopes to reunite with the rest of her family soon. She said: “It’s worse than feeling anger – it’s the confusion of what’s going on. This is illogical – how can a child folder be separated from the same package? The visa is for the same family members.

Read more: Ukrainians settle in Wales and families open their homes

Anna calls her sister every day and says Diana has her suitcase ready to come to Wales. “We pray that she comes quickly and soon,” she said.

Anna recounted how Russian troops took over Tokmak, where the family lived in Ukraine, days after they invaded the country and how her cafe, built over a decade, was destroyed during the conflict. His family depended on the business. She said: “Our village was occupied less than a week after the war. Technically the soldiers were looting all the shops and taking whatever they wanted because they had Kalashnikovs.”

She added: “No Ukrainian aid is coming – Russia is blocking it. They did not leave us humanitarian aid. They would say they liberated our city and they want to start the schools again for the children, but the teachers refuse to teach them.

“They want to pretend that everything is normal. As you know all men over 18 are not allowed to leave and after that it was very dangerous to leave. They shoot everyone who comes out of their house.

Maksym looks delighted with her new haircut watched by mum Anna and salon owner Dean Williams

Anna said life was so difficult you could hardly see a child walking the streets due to the risk posed by invading troops. “Walking with children was very dangerous – the children stayed at home,” she said. “In general, living with them is very dangerous, we did not feel safe to go out.

“It was about a month, they were waiting for the [evacuation] open hallway – it was not easy to live in this neighborhood. She added: “I had a cafe in town near the downtown police station but it got robbed and they stole all the produce.

“There’s no way anyone else in the community has done it. I was shocked at what they did with the store – it was the only place I worked and the whole family relied on this store. I left with no money – nothing.

She arrived at Morriston in Swansea with the clothes on her back that she had fled from her home wearing. Anna either had to take the children on the evacuation train or her luggage. The family had to share a single seat between the four of them.

She said the toughest challenge was leaving her relatives in Ukraine, but they told her not to come back. “It’s hard to leave the house you’ve had since birth,” Anna said.

“I spoke recently with my mother and my grandmother. They said, ‘Don’t come back here, it’s very dangerous.’ They’re fine and stay there and what makes it worse is those bomb sounds – that’s how it works. They stay there because they had very sick parents – they support parents who cannot travel. They are afraid to leave. »

Anna buys groceries for herself and her son
Anna buys groceries for herself and her son

Anna added: “Russian propaganda is very important – they say the West is helping because they want to make you a slave. When they are done with Ukraine, they will attack other NATO countries.

“The soldiers pointed a Kalashnikov twice in my sister’s face – they gave symbolic money and took everything from the store. They checked the men to see if they had worn bulletproof vests in the past and if they had tattoos and if they had ever been in war – the soldiers asked them to strip to see if they were an ordinary man on the streets.” But she remained optimistic about the overall outcome: “I believe we will win and beat Russia – the Ukrainian spirit is very strong,” she said.

Anna left Ukraine on March 23 at 11 a.m. and arrived in Poland at 6 p.m. the following evening. She arrived in Swansea on April 29 with her son to live with godmother Rachel Pompa, 42, a medical practice partner, and her family. Anna said their journey to the UK was a challenge. “It was very, very difficult – there were a lot of small children on the train with their prams,” she said. “There was only one seat for the four of us.”

Anna and Maksym with their host family Rachel and Andrew Pompa
Anna and Maksym with their host family Rachel and Andrew Pompa

Host Ms Pompa said she couldn’t understand the visa delay that was preventing little Maprha and her mother from joining their loved ones. “Why is a five-year-old a security risk? When I started talking to them, they were still in a basement.

“They arrived in Poland and a British immigration officer told them it would take three to five days. And six weeks later there is no visa for a five-year-old child. Every hour of every day, we are waiting for confirmation of the visa. .

“There was a case where the wrong person’s visa was given to someone else. What worries me is that the little girl’s visa was given to someone else. L The whole system is a mess and not fit for purpose.”

Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris, who took up her case, said: ‘The Government’s handling of visa applications for those fleeing Ukraine is dismal. My office is trying to help a family who have secure accommodation in Swansea. They applied for four visas on March 25. Three were approved in three weeks but the fourth, for their five-year-old child, is still not sorted. They have now been waiting for six weeks.

“We have twice received assurances from Home Office officials that the case will be dealt with as a matter of priority, but there has been no progress. These families are already facing extreme hardship and these further delays are unacceptable. The government must urgently address the situation and bring these families to safety.”

Anna and Rachel in the garden
Anna and Rachel in the garden

Problems have also been faced by other mothers trying to get to Britain from Ukraine due to visa issues. You can read more about it here and you can get similar stories through our newsletters.

A UK government spokesperson said: “Thanks to the generosity of the public who offered their homes to Ukrainians fleeing war and thanks to our Ukraine Family Scheme, over 86,000 visas have been granted and over 27,000 Ukrainians are arrived safely in the UK. All applications from families are normally handled together, but cases differ in complexity and it is essential that strong protection processes are in place to protect children from trafficking and other risks. We process thousands of visas a day – this shows that the changes we have made to streamline the service are working and we will continue to build on this success to speed up the process even further.

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