Exclusive: Ukrainian children fall ill during long UK visa wait as mum 'regrets applying'

24 April 2022, 10:05 | Updated: 25 April 2022, 10:57

Miraslava, 5, has fallen seriously ill whilst waiting for a UK visa
Miraslava, 5, has fallen seriously ill whilst waiting for a UK visa. Picture: Family provided
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

A Ukrainian mother who fled Mariupol says she "regrets applying to come to the UK", as her two children have fallen ill in a Polish refugee camp whilst waiting more than a month for visas.

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Chris Katsis, 67, is offering refuge at his home in Kent to Anastasia Sorokina, 28, her two children Miraslava, 5, and Danil, 2, along with her mother Yelzaveta, 51, through the UK Government's Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

Mr Katsis has told LBC he is now "desperate", as the family, who fled their home near the besieged city of Mariupol, have fallen badly ill whilst waiting almost five weeks for their visas, and are now in a camp "without any doctors or medical treatment".

He says 5-year-old Mira has been suffering PTSD like symptoms, including collapsing and feeling nauseous.

It is also believed there has been a Covid-19 outbreak at the camp in Rzeszów and the family has developed chest pains, high temperatures and severe coughs.

Mr Katsis, who is a semi-retired medical counsellor, told LBC Mira had been receiving treatment until they were forced to move to the Rzeszów camp on April 14th.

"It's only student doctors working at that camp and they haven't been offered any diagnosis or medical treatment.

"I have a fear this family are going to die in that camp. They're now in a situation easily equivalent to the one they were in in Mariupol."

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Miraslava, 5, and Danil, 2, asleep on a railway platform in Poland
Miraslava, 5, and Danil, 2, asleep on a railway platform in Poland. Picture: Family provided

Mr Katsis says their visa applications were submitted during the first week of the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, on the 22nd March.

The family then completed biometrics on the 25th March, and received an email confirming their details had been submitted correctly.

But last week, after almost a month of waiting, Mr Katsis claims they received notification of a "problem" with the biometric details for Anastasia's youngest son Danil, 2, and mother Yelzaveta, 51.

The family have told LBC they were informed some of their data had "disappeared from the system". Mr Katsis says he spoke with Anastasia on a video call on Friday.

He said: "What I saw in Anastasia was the same thing I saw in her when she was fleeing Ukraine. The same feeling, the same fear for her children and mother.

"I feel guilty. I showed them pictures of a home that is waiting for them, that has been waiting for them for weeks, and the kids smiled. I gave them hope.

"Three weeks on they're in a camp, no doctors or medical treatment to hand for anyone, and then Covid hits. What have they got now? How is that any better than what they had with the bombs falling on them?"

Mr Katsis says Anastasia now feels "misled and cheated".

Mum Anastasia, 28, with her daughter Miraslava, 5
Mum Anastasia, 28, with her daughter Miraslava, 5. Picture: Family provided

Earlier this month LBC revealed British hosts who applied for the Homes for Ukraine scheme in the first week of it's launch believe their data has been lost.

Hundreds of applicants who submitted details between 18th - 24th March have expressed frustration they've since heard nothing in return. Behind each one is a Ukrainian refugee waiting to come to safety in the UK.

Frustrated would-be host Louise Marcinkevice believes she has been affected by the apparent error, and has told LBC she has connected with more than 600 other British sponsors who are still waiting for progress, despite applying at the beginning of the scheme. She has been collecting their data and forwarding it to the Home Office every day.

Chris Katsis fears Anastasia and her family have been affected, as they applied within the first week.

The Home Office told LBC they are "unaware" with any issues with Anastasia's family's case, which is "rapidly making progress, and is being closely monitored".

A Home Office spokesperson said: "In response to Putin's barbaric invasion we launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history.

"In just six weeks, almost 72,000 visas have been issued so Ukrainians can live and work in the UK.

"The changes the Home Office has made to streamline the visa system, including simplifying the forms and boosting staff numbers, are working and we are now processing visas as quickly as they come in – enabling thousands more Ukrainians to come through our uncapped routes."