Whaplode family welcome Ukrainian refugees
A Whaplode family is among the first in South Holland to open up their home to Ukrainian refugees who are trying to make a new life in this area after fleeing the Russian invasion.
Rachel and Gary Clucas were finally able to welcome a Ukrainian mother and daughter into their High Road home last week after a journey which had taken over a month.
Mr Clucas had spent weeks in Poland to meet and bring back the petrified pair, who speak little English and did not wish to talk, while they waited for their visa to come through.
They had to endure a train journey where they were forced to lie on the carriage floor to avoid gunfire, and their journey to the UK has not been easy - with little infrastructure in place to help.
The mother and her adult daughter arrived in the UK last week with just a small suitcase containing all they could carry from their home in Odessa after being forced to leave family - including their pet dog.
Mrs Clucas said: “All their lives were in that suitcase and it had a hump in it where they had sat on it. It had been their pillow and everything on their journey.
“I cannot imagine packing your whole life in a tiny suitcase.”
The couple were inspired to help after reading accounts and watching footage of the conflict.
The two families were put in contact with each other by an app.
Mr Clucas also went over to Poland in order to meet the mother and daughter. He also wanted to find out why Ukrainians were wary of coming to England.
He had walked to the border with some former military personnel as he hoped to welcome the two women, but ended up spending a terrifying night under a tree where he could hear the artillery shells.
Eventually, they were able to meet up at the train station. Mr Clucas said: “She held out her hand and I went to give her a big hug.”
He initially thought that he would be in Poland for a couple of days to help bring back the mother and daughter, but they were there for 24 days in a room waiting for the visa to come through.
The visa application form - which was in English - also required the two families to work together using a Google translate app in order to fill out, and took four hours.
Both women are eager to work, but cannot apply for jobs until they have received another document which they won’t receive until an appointment in May.
They have also been unable to get the £200 Universal Credit payment which had been promised by the Government as local job centre workers have not received the information.
The family have also received support from Boxes of Hope, which is based in Fleet.
Mr Clucas said: “Our family are among the first in the area (to welcome refugees) but there are going to be more as Poland is at breaking point.
“They need to get the infrastructure right in place now if they are not going to be overwhelmed.
“All of the officials have tried to help but they have no idea what to do as they have no instructions.”
A Government spokesperson said: “In just five weeks, over 56,000 visas have been issued so people can rebuild their lives in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine.
“We continue to process visas as quickly as possible. The Home Office has made changes to streamline the visa system – including simplifying the forms, and boosting staff.
“A UK Visas and Immigration helpline can provide information on eligibility and the application process, and in cases of concern can escalate to teams who can look at the full case history and establish any issues.”