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Stressful flight from Ukraine war but young mum arrives safe in UK with her five-year-old daughter to be hosted by Sawbridgeworth couple

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A woman hosting Ukrainian refugees at her Sawbridgeworth home has described how a young mum and her five-year-old daughter faced a stressful flight out of Poland after fleeing the war in her country.

Author Carol Russell and her husband Stuart are welcoming three refugees from Ukraine and she told The Indie how mum Nadia and her five-year-old daughter Ilariia missed their flight to the UK as their luggage went ahead.

Carol said she and her husband had booked the flights from Warsaw for the pair when the application for visas through the UK Government’s Homes For Ukraine scheme finally came through after seven weeks.


Nadia and Ilariia faced a journey via two trains to Warsaw airport, but after they were delayed they arrived at the departure gate just 15 minutes before take-off, with their bags already checked in. The gate had closed and staff told a sobbing Nadia and her daughter they could not board the plane.

“We managed to establish the situation via a telephone call to a Ukrainian friend in Sawbridgeworth and find her luggage before my husband and I booked two of the four remaining seats on the last flight of the day,” said Carol, adding: “We picked them up from Luton Airport with lots of smiles and hugs.”

Carol’s third guest, a 65-year-old retired economics professor called Luidmyla, arrived on Saturday (May 14). She and her family, a daughter, plus nine-year-old and 13-year-old granddaughters, had fled their home in Bucha near the capital Kyiv to Budapest in Hungary. While her family took a flight to safety she drove back to the capital to leave their dog with relatives before travelling by train to Warsaw where she caught a flight to Luton.

Carol and Stuart are set to open their home to three Ukrainian guests (56690508)
Carol and Stuart are set to open their home to three Ukrainian guests (56690508)

Luidmyla’s daughter-in-law and her baby daughter are staying with Sawbridgeworth Town councillor David Royle.

Meanwhile Cllr Royle joined with Sawbridgeworth Evangelical Congregational Church (SECC) minister Gary Hanson and Agnieszka Cebulak in a meeting with Nick Hills, the local businessman who has launched a humanitarian hub helping to rescue vulnerable people from Ukraine.

Nick, who runs a loft company in The Maltings, launched the Ukraine Humanitarian Hub after realising there needed to be co-ordination and direct action to help refugees. To date through the hub hundreds of refugees have secured safe passage from Ukraine.

Cllr Royle is recommending that money collected by Sawbridgeworth Town Council at a vigil in March should go towards Nick’s scheme, which has launched a Just Giving fund. He also suggested exploring other ways the council could support the hub. To support the work of the hub see www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/uhhub

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