'Don't wave flags, waive visas': Gomersal woman's plea to help Ukraine refugees

Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater says local Ukrainians have had to wait too long for Government action to help refugees find safe passage to the UK.

By Dominic Brown
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 5:04 pm

Speaking today (Tuesday) following the announcement of a Government scheme whereby people can offer homes for refugees fleeing the conflict, Ms Leadbeater said: “I have met with a number of Ukrainian constituents and what they have told me about the plight of their families and loved ones back in the country has been heart-breaking.

"They have told me how touched they have been by all the offers of help, including those who say they are ready to offer refugees a safe place to stay in their homes.

“Sadly it has taken the Government a long time to put processes in place for those fleeing Ukraine to get safe passage to the UK if they want to, but I’m pleased to say progress has now been made.

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Residents of Irpin flee heavy fighting via a destroyed bridge as Russian forces entered the city. Photo: Getty Images

“The people I have met have made the case that the people of Ukraine are defending not just their own country, but democracy and the right to self-determination in Europe.”

Christina Pichowicz, from Gomersal, said: “I am a third generation Ukrainian - I was born in the UK but came from Ukrainian heritage.

"When I was younger I never understood why I had to go to Saturday Ukrainian school and learn language, history, geography and culture.

“As an adult I now have a deep understanding of my Ukrainian cultural heritage.

Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater

"I understand the suffering my ancestors experienced at the hand of Russian aggression.

"I understand the suffering and sacrifice my grandparents felt being taken from their homes as teenagers during the Second World War.

“Now for many British Ukrainians, our lives have changed.

"We check family and friends are relatively safe each morning. We tirelessly watch the news and our phones for any updates.

“We are volunteering at donations centres, protesting and raising funds for humanitarian aid.

"The support from the public has been overwhelming, support for which we are eternally grateful.

“However we are only starting to understand the long term effects of this war.

"Millions are fleeing into neighbouring countries with their children and family while men have been left back to fight.

“I believe the Government needs to reconsider its refugee programme as it is extremely restrictive and processing times are long.

"As with any war, the UK still seems to be behind the rest of the world with its refugee programme.

"We need safe passage not only for Ukrainian refugees, but all refugees.

"Don’t wave flags, waive visas.”

Roman Logush, from Birstall, said: “My father, Hieronim Logush, left his family home in Ukraine as a young man at the time of the Second World War.

"He didn’t know that he would never be able to return; to be prevented from doing so by the oppression of Soviet rule.

“Ukraine did gain independence in 1991 but dad had died four years earlier.

"Now, in 2022, we see history repeating itself.

“People in Ukraine, including my family, are finding themselves in a war, not of their making, and are at risk of losing their independence yet again.

“People are again fleeing to other countries; are fighting for their lives, their country, their independence; and people are being injured and killed.

“My family in Ukraine ask people of other countries to give their support and they express their thanks and appreciation for all that everyone is doing.

"So thank you all for your great support from my family in Ukraine, from me and my family in England, and from Ukrainians all around the world.”

For more about the homes scheme, visit https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/