Message from Vadym Prystaiko, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK
The “one-stop-shop”, Ukrainians In The UK, offers information, advice and links to organisations for those escaping the war. Help is available too in finding school places, employment and healthcare plus details of charities offering support.
Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Britain, joined Boris Johnson in praising the scheme. Mr Prystaiko made a short video to be shown on the website.
Speaking in English and then Ukrainian, he addressed his fellow nationals: “Dear friends, welcome to the web portal Ukrainians In The UK, designed by the Daily Express.”
“All the information you need to settle down in your new home in the hospitable land of the United Kingdom is at your disposal.”
“This work…helped us find out our genuine friends.”
“People, businesses, educational institutions of the United Kingdom are sincerely welcoming you. Please feel at home.”
He finishes the short speech with “Slava Ukraini”, meaning glory to Ukraine.
Chair of Christian Aid and former Archbishop of York leading a crowd outside the Ukrainian embassy
Earlier, the Prime Minister had joined major charities and politicians in applauding the Express’s launch of the Ukrainians In The UK website.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed yesterday he hopes to become a host for a refugee family in the next week.
A three-generation Ukrainian family fleeing Russia’s invasion are awaiting final approval of their visas to come to the UK, it was said.
Mr Shapps is welcoming a mother, her six-year-old son, a 75-year-old grandmother and their pet dog from Kyiv, under the Homes For Ukraine scheme.
The MP for Welwyn Hatfield, Herts, said the family of three – who are currently in Krakow, Poland – had been delayed, adding he hoped they would travel to the UK in the “next week or so”.
Mr Shapps said: “The mum only has what they call a national passport, it’s like an ID card, not a full international passport.”
“So she has had to visit a visa office, whereas the others are able to travel.”
“Then there was a complication with the pet, although I think we are keen to remove those complications as well because it looked like the dog might at one point have had to quarantine for four months. I think there are moves afoot to prevent that from happening.”
“So it is important, they’re very understanding, that you do need to know who is coming to the country. It’s not beyond Putin and his cronies to deceive Brits by sending people to live in the UK who may have the wrong motivations.”
“But it does look to me like it’s coming towards the end of the process and I think they’re looking at booking, we hope, within the next week or so to join us.”
Members of the public outside the Ukrainian embassy in Holland Park
Mr Shapps added that his family is looking forward to hosting the Ukrainian refugees.
He said: “It will be a bit of a squeeze but we will make it work and we’re delighted to be able to do a small thing here.”
Yesterday, a group of church leaders gathered outside the Ukrainian embassy in Notting Hill, west London, to hold a minute’s silence for those suffering in the war-torn nation.
The leaders, including the former Archbishop of York John Sentamu, gave moving speeches and said prayers for Ukrainians before turning east, in the direction of the nation, to pay their respects.
The group members held blue and yellow hearts in the air – the colours of the Ukrainian flag – as they joined together.
Around a hundred Christians, including some from Ukraine, observed the minute’s silence for the besieged country while holding their coloured hearts high, before singing the national anthem in a spontaneous outburst of solidarity.
Mr Sentamu, who is now a peer and chairman of the Christian Aid charity, said that Vladimir Putin will “have to answer to God” for the “absolute viciousness” he is unleashing on the Ukrainian people.
He also questioned how the Russian president, who identifies as a Russian Orthodox
Christian, can say his prayers at night after inflicting acts of “evil” in Ukraine.
Mr Sentamu, 72, described Ukraine as a “very, very strong Christian country” and condemned the violence seen over the weekend in Bucha, near Kyiv, as “brutality, absolute viciousness”.
When asked whether Mr Putin can ever be forgiven for his actions in the eyes of the church, Mr Sentamu said: “First of all, the people who are going to forgive him are the Ukrainians, and the rest of us can try to remind him that the cross of Jesus is the end of violence.”
“If you really wear a cross like I do, you must be non-violent. To unleash such brutality is just beyond me.”
“If I was a Russian Orthodox Bishop, actually, I would be going and telling Putin that what he’s doing is contrary to the love of God, contrary to humanity as we know it, contrary really to anything else.”
“To invade another free country in the way he is doing is just not on. He will have one day to answer to God.”
When asked whether he held any hope in the ability of Christian leaders to appeal to Putin through religious reasoning, he added: “What I would say to him is whenever you see the poor, the vulnerable, looking at you – that’s Jesus looking at you.
“Because he [Jesus] is among the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the unloved.”
“So Putin, if he is saying he is doing all this, how can he say his prayers at night, particularly that phrase in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Deliver us from evil?’ How can he do evil acts and then say, ‘I’m on God’s side?’ Never, never, never.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed yesterday he hopes to become a host for a refugee family
Mr Sentamu said he had visited Odesa, in south-west Ukraine, in 1983 and was overcome with the “remarkable” hospitality of the residents there.
He added he was saddened to see that the city’s residents had heard explosions at the weekend.
Reverend Dyfrig Rees, 62, general secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents, which represents 350 congregational churches, also attended the gathering with his wife, Mandy Rees, 62.
He said that he hoped Ukrainians would find people around the world saying prayers for them “inspiring and encouraging”.
Mr Rees said: “I’m sure that if someone tells someone now in Ukraine that there were 100 people in London thinking about you, praying for you and standing with you, I’m sure that’s going to keep them going.
“I felt pride and I felt inspired and I felt filled with hope and joy.”
Home sponsor Helen Peach
Red tape hits Helen’s mission to help her family
The Daily Express was on standby last night to fly a Ukrainian refugee family trapped in Turkey to the safety of their UK sponsor – but was blocked by visa delays.
Applications for the mother, father and their two-year-old son were made 17 days ago after their escape from Kyiv but have not been granted.
The inexplicable delay has left the family in limbo and unable to fly.
Their sponsor, a lawyer and school governor from Kent, spoke of her “extreme frustration” and fears for Roman Bezsonov, 35, his wife Iryna, 33, and little Erik.
Solicitor Helen Peach approached her MP Tracey Crouch who has made inquiries at the Home Office about the application.
Helen said she “ticked every box” in the process and submitted the family’s visa applications with meticulous care.
Her four-bedroom home in Chatham, Kent, has been checked and approved by her local council as the 55-year-old mum made ready two bedrooms and a separate bathroom.
Also, as a school governor, she has an enhanced criminal records check which amply demonstrates her suitability as a host. But Helen said the only thing preventing Roman, Iryna and Erik coming to the UK is red tape.
She added: “The family is genuine, I’ve been checked out as a sponsor and thanks to the Daily Express we have transport to bring them to the UK. They know where they need to come to, the flights are available. The only thing stopping them at the minute is Government red tape. It is excruciating.”
“The family are worried they have made a wrong choice and may have lost the chance to be settled in another European country. I would just appeal to the Government to do everything it can to grant these applications, but the process must be made more simple.”
“Even with my help this family found the process complex. There is a helpline but no way of discovering what the problem is, whether there is an error or missing information.”
The Home Office responded to the Express’s query by referring the family’s case to the Department for Levelling Up which offered no comment.
Helen added: “As soon as I started seeing people fleeing out of Ukraine I wanted to do it. Then the Government decided they would open it up for people to host in their own homes.”
She searched the internet looking for Ukrainians who needed refuge and said: “I found my family on a US website. They saw the war coming and two days before the Russians invaded, packed a few things into their car.
“That was how Roman was able to leave as the Ukrainian government had not yet decreed all men of fighting age had to stay.”