Ukraine-Russia: Scotland-bound Ukrainian family stuck in limbo in Warsaw after visas fail to turn up

A Ukrainian family of a mother and two children is living in a single room with no working plumbing in Poland after UK Government documents allowing them to travel to Scotland have failed to materialise.

Liubov Kolomenska, with her eight-year-old daughter Sofia and 17-year-old son Oleksandr, fled their home in Oleshki, near Kherson in Ukraine, the day after the war began in February, leaving her husband and oldest son in Ukraine. The town is now occupied by Russian forces.

During their time in the Polish capital Warsaw, Ms Kolomenska, a primary school teacher in Ukraine, was contacted by an old childhood friend, Angelina Gadeliya, who went to school with her in Ukraine, but moved to the US as a small child. She suggested the family should apply to move to Glasgow where her younger sister Liana lives, through the Scottish Government's super sponsor scheme.

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However, while all three received “Warm Scottish Welcome” letters from the Scottish Government shortly after their application last month, a formal permission to travel letter has only arrived for Oleksander, leaving the family unable to travel.

Liubov, with her children Oleksandr, 17, Sofia, 8 and Peter, who has remained in Ukraine with his father.

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They are now living in limbo in Warsaw, where the plumbing in the bathroom they share with six other apartments has been broken for two months. Ms Kolomenska has also been forced to get up at 4:30am every day to work in three badly-paid cleaning jobs to be able to provide food for her children.

Ms Gadeliya, who had rekindled her childhood friendship with Ms Kolomenska during a visit to Ukraine 14 years ago, contacted her after the war started to check on her well-being.

"I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help her,” she said. “We had been classmates in Oleshki, Ukraine, back during Soviet times, prior to my family immigrating to the US, and I met up with her briefly during a visit to Ukraine in 2008.

“They are struggling so much. They came to Warsaw with so little as they were not expecting to be away from their homes for such a long time. It was difficult to find accommodation as there are so many Ukrainians there – and they did not manage to get any support from the Polish government for two months.”

She added: "Upon learning about her living conditions, and how little aid she was receiving in Poland, I suggested that she let me apply for visas to the UK for her and her two kids, with the hope of sending them to Glasgow, where my sister lives.

“I had also seen the announcement just the previous week that Scottish universities were made to be free for Ukrainians, so I thought that this would be a great opportunity for Oleksandr to transfer to a Scottish school. With the help of my sister, I submitted their UK visa applications and selected the Scottish Government as their sponsor.

“It seems to me that all three of them have been issued UK visas, but by some strange omission or mistake, Liubov and Sofia never received their “permission to travel letters’.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “More than 77,200 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK since Putin’s invasion and all arrivals have access to benefits and public services, as well as the right to work or study, from the day they arrive.

“Applications from families are normally processed together, but cases differ in complexity and it is vital that robust safeguarding processes are in place to protect children from trafficking and other risks.”

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