'We came to visit family - now we can't go home to Ukraine'

Nastasha Kukharchuk, who travelled to Scotland last month, is unsure when she can return to her homeland with her daughter.

Ukraine: ‘We came to visit relatives in Scotland and now we can’t go home’ STV News
Nastasha Kukharchuk came to Scotland with her daughter before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

From a marquee set up at a Scottish theme park, Nastasha Kukharchuk is trying to call her family and friends at home in Ukraine.

She came over to Scotland last month to visit relatives, just before Russia launched its invasion of her homeland.

Natasha is now unsure when she can return along with her nine-year-old daughter, Sophie, who has just enrolled at a school in Scotland.

“We just came to visit family,” Natasha told STV News. “I think like (maybe) two weeks, three weeks and then we would head to Ukraine because I have small luggage, it’s not like I came here (to Scotland) to settle.”

In the meantime, Natasha is helping her sister-in-law co-ordinate the delivery of critically needed supplies for Ukrainians including baby items, first aid kits and bedding.

M&Ds theme park in North Lanarkshire offered a marquee and they were inundated with supplies within hours of asking for donations.

Jillian McKenna, Natasha’s sister-in-law and Sophie’s aunt, said: “Yesterday, we had an emotional moment because we realised how much we had achieved in such a short space of time.

“And now it’s just feeling proud, joyful, thankful, and seeing all this stuff ready to go is just incredible.

“It’s really emotional for us all. We are so lucky that they (Natasha and Sophie) are here but so much needs to be done.”

 M&Ds theme park in North Lanarkshire offered a marquee.STV News
M&Ds theme park in North Lanarkshire offered a marquee.

Natasha says she is finding it difficult protecting her daughter from the situation at home.

She said: “For this type of generation, kids’ brains are still not stable. You know, we’re very emotional. Of course, she’s worried, she asks every day, we are discussing it.

“But I try to keep her far away as possible because it’s really very hard.”

Charities on the ground in Ukraine fear the crisis will last for at least three years and is causing the “fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War”.

The chairwoman of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), Sue Inglish, said the war in Ukraine was already a “massive crisis”, with charity workers on the front line delivering food, medicine, supplies and first aid to those affected.

Ms Inglish praised the “extraordinary generosity of the British public” as she revealed that the appeal had raised more than £120m, including £12m from Scotland, to support 15 of the major humanitarian aid charities, including the British Red Cross, Save the Children, Christian Aid and Oxfam.

But witnesses said that donations of unnecessary items such as high-heel shoes were “holding back a mammoth volunteer effort” as people were having to sort through boxes of donated belongings.

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