Relief as Ukrainian grandmother reaches Crouch End

Marta Vasylyshyn, centre, with (l-r) Liliya Vasylyshyn, Catherine West MP and Alexsandra Vintonyak, 

Marta Vasylyshyn, centre, with (l-r) Liliya Vasylyshyn, Catherine West MP and Alexsandra Vintonyak, - Credit: David Winskill

There was relief in Crouch End this week as a Ukrainian grandmother finally reached the UK.

Marta Vasylyshyn arrived in Britain on Saturday (March 12) and was greeted by her daughter Liliya Vasylyshyn who has battled to get her home after she fled Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin's Russia invaded the country on February 24, shelling cities and killing civilians as well as soldiers.

An emotional Marta Vasylyshyn arrives in Crouch End and meets Catherine West MP who helped the family

An emotional Marta Vasylyshyn arrives in Crouch End and meets Catherine West MP who helped the family - Credit: David Winskill

Marta, 65, managed to flee to Romania with her younger daughter Alexsandra Vintonyak, who also lives in Crouch End, and now she is back in London.

"We're so relieved to be reunited," said Liliya. "My mum and my sister are exhausted but happy. My mum has five grandchildren here, her family is here. She has started taking my kids to school.

"They left Ukraine on February 27 and arrived here on March 12. It took nearly two weeks to be reunited with the family.

"It was a long ridiculous process to get the visas and we are grateful to our MP, Catherine West, who would contact the home office on our behalf."

Liliya, who volunteers for a UK hotline for people stuck in Ukraine, said: "I spoke to you last Friday and I received an email about the Ukraine Family Scheme the same day, but I couldn't book an appointment for my mum to take her biometric fingerprint test.

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"I kept calling the hotline and everyone gave different answers. One said my mum should go to a visa centre nearby, but nearby was 800 kilometres away."

She said once her mother applied for a visa she received notification three days later.

"Why couldn't they inform her straight away? Give it in 24 hours," said Liliya.

Marta and Alexsandra met further hurdles at the airport when they had to fill in locator forms they knew little about and take PCR Covid tests, with Liliya attempting to organise it online for them from her home.

"The government needs to make the application faster. My mum was one of the lucky ones."

Marta Vasylyshyn picking up her three grandchildren from school in Crouch End

Marta Vasylyshyn picking up her three grandchildren from school in Crouch End - Credit: Liliya Vasylyshyn

On Sunday she took her mother to meet Catherine West at Unite for Ukraine at St Mary’s Tower in Hornsey.

"Catherine West always responded straight away. At 10pm I give her my mum's appointment number for the visa office and she contacted the Home Office. She helped us a lot. I wanted my mum to meet her."

Liliya said her 69-year-old father remains in Ukraine but has fled the capital Kyiv and is now at the Hungarian border. 

"When he wanted to flee Kyiv he couldn't then there was a humanitarian path. He managed to get in that. He had just half an hour. What do you have to grab in that time? Documents?

"It took him one and a half days travelling, changing lorries. For him it's a last resort leaving Ukraine."

Her mother will be allowed to stay for three years when she collects her biometric visa from Finchley post office in three weeks time.

"My mum's sure she will be going back very soon. Ukraine will be fine, we will win, we will go back. 

"People who are fleeing are not looking for a better life, they are looking for temporary. Everyone coming here it's only elderly, women and children. They all have their husbands in Ukraine.

"Hopefully they will still have them when this is all finished and they will be reunited in Ukraine and build it back."

Catherine West MP said “I am so relieved that Marta is finally reunited with her daughter and grandchildren. But what a shameful lack of humanity this government has shown.

"Forcing refugees fleeing a war zone to jump through ridiculous bureaucratic hoops instead of welcoming them with open arms.

"So many people have contacted me desperate to help. Our government should have been leading the way, not have to be shamed into action.”   

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and the changes we’ve made to the visa process are making it quicker and simpler for Ukrainians to come here, as well as ensuring those already here can stay.

“Valid passport holders no longer have to attend in-person appointments to submit fingerprints or facial verification, and we have also expanded capacity at our visa application centres to 13,000 appointments per week across Europe to help those without their documentation.

“This week, the government's sponsorship route will open to allow Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK to come here and we will continue to work closely with our Ukrainian partners to deliver the measures we have put in place.”

To visit the Support Ukraine hub visit https://supportukraine.uk