- Jane Morgan
- The BBC investigates Wales
Ukrainian Natalia Roberts wants to bring him to the UK as soon as possible after hearing about how his best friend’s children drank rainwater from a pond to survive the war in Ukraine.
Yulia and her three daughters would leave their basement shelter in the besieged city of Mariupol after the rains to quench their thirst.
Not only did they lack water and food; There were no toilets, showers or electricity in their temporary retreat.
Natalia now wants her childhood friend in Wales, where she has lived with her husband Dewey for five years.
“We had a small bowl [de sopa] Once a day for three children “, Yulia explains.
After their homes were destroyed by Russian bombs, Yulia and her daughters – ages 11, six and three – had to take refuge in a communal basement that provided some shelter, but did not have enough food to feed the children.
“The kids would ask for food, so he started feeding them at bedtime so they could feel full before bed,” said Natalia from her home in North Wales.
“When it starts raining, first they drink water from the pond. Then they find some pots to fill with water.”
‘There was nothing’
Yulia had to leave her daughters alone in the shelter while fetching clean water.
“There was a well three kilometers away. I had to run there under a gun, under a bomb,” Yulia recalled, reporting on her daily life in a video from the BBC Wales Investigators program.
And when the mother’s daughter was sick, there was no medicine.
“I had the money, but I couldn’t buy anything because there was nothing, everything was broken, everything was looted and destroyed,” he says.
Yulia and Natalia have been close friends since school and have always been in touch – until the start of the war in Ukraine in February.
For days, sometimes weeks, it wasn’t safe for Yulia to text or call her friend 2,000 miles away.
Natalia had to occasionally update the daily video accounts of Yulia and the girls in the underground bunkers because her husband was fighting the Russians in the front row.
As the situation deteriorated, Natalia was able to evacuate her mother and stepfather from eastern Ukraine, and Lyudmila and Sasha now live in Kernarfen, Wales, with her husband Dewey, four-year-old Julia and one-year-old Jacob.
Now the 32-year-old accountant is doing everything he can to help his friend Yulia and her family become Ukrainian refugees in the UK.
Yulia and her daughters have been forced to flee their homes among the 11 million Ukrainians – just weeks before the UN-led evacuation of Mariupol began.
The city is strategically important because from there the Russians could control the entire eastern part of the Ukrainian coast.
Mariupol, which has been under siege since early March, is now dominated by Russian forces – although hundreds of Ukrainian troops remain at the Azovstal metallurgical center south of the city.
Russian forces have closed large industrial complexes and continued their airstrikes, but no attempt has yet been made to pull Ukrainian troops out of the tunnel network beneath the factory.
Russia has been charged with war crimes for carrying out a series of bombings across the city. At least 20,000 civilians were killed, according to the local mayor. More than one lakh people are trapped there.
By train and then by minibus, Yulia left for Poland with her three daughters, not knowing when she would see her husband again, or whether she would be able to join her family in Natalia and Wales.
But the battle scenes are affecting Yulia the most.
“He has seen people in Mariupol being killed by missiles, and those who have no arms or legs, whose bodies have been destroyed,” Natalia said.
“I would love for Yulia to be here with us in Wales. I dream that one day we would have a cup of tea in our dining room and she and the girls could have a happier life. I would love it.”
About 27,000 Ukrainian refugees – out of the 86,000 visas granted – have arrived in the UK and Wales has said it wants to be a “refugee country” for Assad, fleeing the horrors of war in their homeland.
And 10,000 Welsh families have provided homes for Ukrainian refugees, but by the end of last month, the British Home Office had issued only 2,300 visas to those wishing to come to Wales.
The Welsh government has so far approved about 700 visa applications but could not tell the BBC how many refugees actually came to the country, insisting it had sought information from the UK government but was told it had not been found.
The Home Office said it was working “as soon as possible” to provide information to local governments, adding that more than 86,000 visas had been granted under various projects. It added that it was simplifying forms to speed up approvals and increasing the number of employees.
The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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