Crouch End woman's plea to get Ukrainian mother to the UK

Liliya with her mother Marta Ivano Frankivsk in Ukraine in August 2021, six months before Putin declared war on the country

Liliya with her mother Marta in Ivano Frankivsk in Ukraine in August 2021, six months before Putin declared war on the country - Credit: Liliya Vasylyshyn

A Crouch End mother is pleading with the Home Office to speed up her children's Ukrainian grandmother's visa application.

Liliya Vasylyshyn is battling to get her 65-year-old mother Marta Vasylyshyn over to the UK as soon as possible.

Liliya's sister, Alexsandra Vintonyak, who also lives in Crouch End, flew to Ukraine on February 23 – the day before Vladimir Putin's declared war on the European country. 

Mother and daughter fled West Ukraine, reaching Moldova on March 1, and are now in Romania staying with generous strangers.

On Friday (March 4) the Home Office said a Ukraine Family Scheme was now open for extended family members.

Mum-of-three Liliya told the Ham&High she has been calling the Home Office all week, having called a hotline and registered her name.

But she said she has not received the online form, which must be filled in for Marta to give her finger print and make a visa application.

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"They gave a hotline where you register your name, email and phone number and said: You will have a link and fill in a application, I don't know how long, to book you further, " said Liliya.

"So you book an appointment in the visa centre for finger prints of your Ukrainian relative and wait then, hopefully, 24 hours for emergency visa – but still nothing is happening.

"For us, it is a hope but for my mum and sister – they managed to get to Moldova but Moldova has no air space so to come to UK you have to move further, so they went to Romania and found someone to take them in kindly – but every day checking email. 

"When you're fleeing war you're already stressed, distressed, you're leaving everything there.

"My mum has high blood pressure and she has to control it but this is so stressful it's difficult.

"Take the stress out of people who can go. Many people can't go."

Marta Vasylyshyn with her daughter Liliya Vasylyshyn and three grandchildren in Ukraine in summer 2021

Marta Vasylyshyn with her daughter Liliya Vasylyshyn and three grandchildren in Ukraine in summer 2021 - Credit: Liliya Vasylyshyn

The 40-year-old pointed out that until this week, UK law stipulated that immediate family is only a spouse and children whereas in European law "it's your parents, step parents, brother, sister".

She added: "Straight away the UK didn't say parents, only if you are British Citizen and your wife is there, you couldn't bring parents.

"It's basic what they can do to allow family relatives to come over and stay with you.

"I'm doing this for my mum but still I don't know what documents they want. I imagine it will be shorter than 100 pages. Is it easy to fill in, difficult to fill in? It's taking so long. We're day nine now? People started fleeing from day one."

Liliya said her 70-year-old father is still in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, having fled there with his second wife and son when the Russian army invaded the Dombas region eight years ago.

"They took a bag, thinking just one week and never returned. They built a life in Kyiv. He was saying: 'It's not going to move to Kyiv, it's not going to happen, the whole country?'

"My father said at the beginning: 'No I'm not moving, where should I move now? How is it going to be?'

"And now he cannot move because they are shooting civilians, there is no corridor where as civilians you can cross.

"My children talk to him and they hear shelling in the background on the phone.

"For me, not to let them talk to him, you don't know, is it going to be the last time they talk to him?

"My children are very distressed. 

"My great aunt – she's 95 – she is still there. My aunty who looks after her – she is still there. My cousins are still there. There are still a great, great number of people in Ukraine."

A government spokesperson said: "We have been working at pace to launch the Ukraine Family Scheme and it is now open for extended family members to apply.

“As well as immediate family members, British nationals and people of any nationality settled in the UK will be supported to bring parents, grandparents, grandchildren, adult children and siblings to the UK.

“An unlimited sponsorship route is also opening soon for Ukrainian’s without family ties here, so communities, local authorities and others can sponsor and support those in need to come to the UK.”

Information is available on Home Office Action in Ukraine on Gov.uk Home Office action on Ukraine - Home Office in the media (blog.gov.uk)