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‘This is our Ukraine, not his’: Torment for women watching invasion from north-east

Olena Farr and her mother Tamara Vasyvta.
Olena Farr and her mother Tamara Vasyvta.

A woman whose mum only went back to Ukraine last month after a holiday in the north-east has spoken of her torment.

Olena Farr says she feels “guilty” that her mum Tamara Vasyvta is now on her own in western Ukraine, after leaving Scotland a mere six weeks ago.

Mrs Farr woke up in tears this morning after an anxious night awaiting news.

Her mum lives not too far from Lviv, where attacks have been reported.

Thankfully they have been in contact today, but 41-year-old accountant Mrs Farr fears things could get much worse.

“I’ve been awake most of the night just watching news updates and trying to get any sense of what’s going on,” she said.

“It’s such a worrying situation for the people of Ukraine but also for the Ukrainian people everywhere. This is our homeland and these are our people, our friends and family.

“I feel sick with worry.

“There is still internet today and still running water but if the siege continues this may be cut off.”

‘We need to take steps now or blood will be on all our hands’

Mrs Farr came to Scotland in 2007 to study. She attended Aberdeen College – now NesCol – and qualified as an accountant and later married husband David.

She said: “My mum is OK, although she is incredibly worried and fearful about what’s going on. She did say that there’s a huge sense of unity already. People in the west have started opening their doors to those fleeing Kyiv and other places.

“She only left on January 8. If only I had foreseen this, or asked her to leave when the UK Government told British nationals to leave. I feel really guilty. I’m just praying she stays alive.”

When asked about the response from western governments so far, Mrs Farr said she felt it was “too little, too late”.

“We need steps taken now to protect lives or blood will be on all of our hands,” she said.

“I wouldn’t want to see the conflict escalated further but we need help to protect our airspace. We need that now before it extends past Ukraine.

“We all feel very grateful to the Ukrainian army and to all the people in Ukraine who have volunteered to defend our country. And it’s a beautiful country. I was just starting to feel like we were on our own feet, and that we had a place at the table in Europe as a country with something to offer.”

Solomiya Smeaton and her mum, Maria Hural during her last visit to Ukraine.

‘We will fight but we need help’

Solomiya Smeaton also believes more needs to be done to protect those in her homeland.

The 37-year-old, who lives in Johnshaven with her husband Richard, said last night was the “scariest” of her life as she waited for news about her loved ones who are also from Turnopil.

“I didn’t think I would ever have to live through this,” she said.

“It just feels like there’s not enough support. What will sanctions do for the most corrupt country in the world?

“We will fight but we need help.”

On a day that saw the nearby city attacked, with visible plumes of smoke afterwards, her elderly parents were forced from their home and into an underground bunker.

Mrs Smeaton added: “At first they couldn’t get in as everyone was panicking so had to go home. But then as more sirens sounded they tried again and made it into an underground bunker near a school.”

Now she is doing all she can to get her 67 and 70-year-old parents to safety.

“I spent most of last night calling the UK embassy and immigration centres,” Mrs Smeaton said. “I’ve been here 18 years but apparently that doesn’t count for anything. I just have to abandon my family in their hour of need.

“I don’t need anyone to support them – I will do that. And I’m not asking for citizenship, I just need to save my parents.”

However, Mrs Smeaton wants to be clear that she expects more from the Scottish Government.

“We are so grateful for all the support and love we have seen this this began but please, please, if you’re from the Scottish Government and you are reading this, this isn’t the time to be silent or to wait and see. It will be too little too late.”

Yuliia Rezin (right) is worried for her family in Ukraine – including sister Lilia (left) who is hiding in an underground garage with her husband and children

Anxiety as supplies run low

Yuliia Rezin said her “heart was broken” over what is happening in her beloved Ukraine.

Her mum, who is partially sighted, has been in a bomb shelter in Kyiv with her neighbours since the strikes began while her sister, husband and nephews are hiding in an underground garage.

Mrs Rezin, who lives in Inverurie, said: “I’m absolutely worried sick.

“My sister Lilia and her family are trapped in the garage because they didn’t have enough time to get to a proper shelter 10 minutes away.

“What’s making it worse is they can hear all the noises but don’t know what’s happening above. I was talking to my sister and she was asking me what was going on – I could hear booms and whooshes, but she didn’t know if it was more rockets or tanks going over.

“It’s so cold in Kyiv right now. They have some water and biscuits, and managed to take a kettle so are having cups of tea to keep their bodies warm inside.

“But they think they will have to try and move tomorrow as their supplies are running low.”

Mrs Rezin said she felt like she was walking around like a zombie, and felt utterly helpless.

“I can’t help them at all,” she said. “I can’t believe this is happening in 2022, all because of one man who has lost the plot.

“Ukrainians just don’t get freedom. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s getting worse and worse.

“My heart is broken. I hope I see my sister again.”

From left is Inna’s mum Evdokiya, Inna with her son Daniel, her sister Iryna and Inna’s daughter Katrina.

Attack from ‘sneaky neighbour’ hurts all the more

Mother-of-two Inna Mcleod, is also anxious about her family.

She has been receiving regular updates from her parents and cousins, who have lived in and around Kyiv for many years. Her parents have managed to escape, and are now in a village called Buchne about 110 miles away, while her sister and cousins are also preparing to make the move.

“I never expected to be living through this horror, not now, in this 21st century,” Mrs Mcleod said.

“And from who – a country – our neighbours who stood with us in the past. But they are worse than any past threat we had because they are so sneaky.”

Mrs Mcleod, who lives in Aberdeen and works as a carer, previously stayed in an apartment in the Troeschina district of Kyiv. She was sent a photo from her block of smoke billowing from a building that was attacked within sight of her home.

“I have friends sending me pictures of tanks on the streets, and one from the window of my flat in Kyiv where an attack has just happened.

“We need help to protect our skies. We will give our lives – we are a proud nation – and we will give our lives for freedom and democracy, but we will need support.”

Inna McLeod was sent this picture of the damage her former home in Kyiv

Misinformation anger

For now however, Mrs Mcleod’s greatest worry is her cousin who is hiding for safety.

“My cousin has two boys, one is seriously ill with a kidney complaint and last night they had to hide under ground in a cold bunker, with no access to medicine.

“The last message I got was that they are still alive. For the moment.”

She feels confident that in the short term her family can defend themselves but worries that the world isn’t seeing and hearing the truth.

“My uncles are hunters and have guns so I know they can defend themselves and protect people. But I get so angry at the misinformation.

People in Russia think we aren’t being attacked. They see Putin say he’s helping us somehow.

“I mean, what did Putin think, that he could come over and would be welcomed with flowers and flags? No. We will not allow it. This is our Ukraine and not his.

“My grandma and great grandmother are there. I don’t know if I will ever see them again. I’m just exhausted. But I know my people. We won’t stop fighting for our Ukraine.”

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