A Ukrainian family who fled war-torn kyiv are among the first refugees to settle in north-east Lincolnshire.
Neil Atkin has decided to take in the mother of his Ukrainian wife Ievgeniia, Elvira, his sister Ruzanna and her two nieces – Nastia, 16, and Sophia, 12 – after fleeing for their lives after the Russian invasion of the ‘Ukraine. They managed to get to Poland where they spent two weeks. After fleeing war-torn kyiv and spending two weeks in Poland, the family arrived safely in Healing on Saturday, March 26.
Mr Atkin hailed the village’s hospitality and kindness to his extended family who left him “in tears” at the generosity. A mysterious person dropped £200 on her doorstep with instructions to buy clothes for the two young girls.
Earlier this week, a charity evening at the Healing Men’s Social Club also raised an incredible £4,000 for Ukrainians living near the Polish border.
Read more: Grimsby expat in Ukraine fires guns and builds petrol bombs to help Ukrainian army invading Russia
Mr Atkin told Grimsby Live: “Four and a half years ago I went to kyiv to consider importing wood stoves, and while I was in the stove shop I met my future wife. We courted for a few years. and then I proposed and we got married before Covid happened, and she moved here with me. She’s been working here ever since.
“His family came there – my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and my wife’s two nieces – his brother is still there because he has to stay and fight. kyiv was getting a bit too close, there there was shelling on the outskirts and their house was right in the middle of kyiv, which is probably not far from the presidential district, so we decided it was a good idea to bring them here.
“But it was too dangerous to leave – it was a bit like Russian roulette to see who should leave, because [the soldiers] were shooting at people in their cars as they drove away. They finally managed to catch a train to Poland and had to stand for four hours because there was no seat anywhere.
“My mother-in-law is 73 and my sister-in-law is about 44, and she just had her ankle reconstructed with pins and stuff. All of them, they just took a bag of clothes and stuff. they could put in. They told them they couldn’t put all those bags on the train because there was no room.
“Because my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law are both teachers in a school in kyiv, they had teacher friends in Poland who took them for a few weeks to find out how to get a visa to come here. They told me called Friday and told me they were flying out Saturday morning at 8am so I drove to Liverpool to the airport.
“They looked scruffy, they were all in their winter clothes because it was -10 degrees there, so they left in their snow gear. When they saw us, they crossed the road in they knew nothing about cars, and crossed that road to give us a hug. It was out of the war, safe, but they didn’t care what was going on. They just saw us and ran.
“People showed up at the door with bags of clothes, gift certificates, money for the kids to shop and buy clothes – it’s just spiraling. The whole village of Healing is is knitted together.I’m not a normal crying type but I was in tears the other night because some people had a Ukrainian charity night at the Healing Men’s Social Club, and they raised over £4,000. to supplies.”
Neil’s mother-in-law, Elvira Solomakha, told Grimsby Live: “I’m certainly very happy because I wanted to visit [England] but then Covid came along so that was a hindrance. We were waiting for quite a while, then I planned to come here in the summer and applied for a visa but then everything changed, unfortunately. So we got here quicker than expected. We waited at the visa center in Warsaw Poland and everywhere people were so nice to us.
“One thought has helped me during this time – the world is good, kind and friendly. There’s a lot more to that than bad.”
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