Family's appeal to aid Ukrainians after hearing of relatives' plight

Marika Sigley's family, who live near the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine, are now safe in the Czech Republic.

Marika Sigley's family, who live near the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine, are now safe in the Czech Republic after travelling to the Polish border to escape the danger. Pictured is her cousin, her cousin's husband and two nieces. - Credit: Natalka Auker

A Norfolk-Ukrainian family have been writing to local businesses for help in supporting those displaced by the conflict in the country, after hearing the harrowing experiences of their own relatives.

Marika Sigley and daughter Natalka Auker have been co-ordinating collection efforts to gather much-needed supplies for refugees fleeing the war.

Natalka Auker had been dropping donating items for Ukrainian refugees to Waites and Stones in Swaffham.

Natalka Auker had been dropping donating items for Ukrainian refugees to Waites and Stones in Swaffham. - Credit: Natalka Auker

Ms Sigley, from Thetford, is Ukrainian and has family living near the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, in the west of the country. 

She said she had been receiving reports from her cousins there about people being "absolutely terrified" by the ongoing violence.

"People are advised to shelter in basements, they're told to store food and water in basements, to gather warm clothes," she said.

"It's zero degrees over there, it's very, very cold.

"They are preparing for the worst and are fearing that once the big cities are taken, that the Russians are going to push to the west."

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Ms Sigley said her cousin and two nieces have since made it safely out of Ukraine to the Czech Republic. They had initially travelled to the Polish border to escape the danger, before catching a train to the Czech Republic to be with another family member living there.

She added that she was told there were many volunteers at the border trying to help those that have been displaced.

She said: "We're all very glad they're safe. We were sobbing. All they took with them was one bag of medical essentials.

"The memory will never go away for them, but they feel blessed to get out."

She said they now have to think of all those that have been left behind and hopes that their stories "have a similar happy ending".

Ms Sigley added: "There are stories of people who have tried to get out and are stuck in this 50km queue, and then turn around and come back because they worry the Russians are going to bomb the border and they're just sitting ducks.

"My cousin told about a lady who had been through Kyiv, who had been through bombing and shelling and everything, this poor lady was so traumatised she could barely speak."

Ms Sigley is one of a number of Ukrainians living in Norfolk. A new analysis of census data shows more than 310 Ukrainians in the county, with the most located in Norwich.

refugees

People living in Ukraine have fled to neighbouring countries following the conflict. - Credit: AP

She along with her daughter, from her Downham Market, are doing all they can locally to get aid to Ukrainian refugees who have fled their homes, and are asking for donations of small medical items, personal care and food items.

Ms Auker and her husband Jake have also hand delivered letters to local businesses appealing for help in response to the crisis.

The Cats Protection volunteer has been dropping off donations received from locals, businesses and Southery Baby Bank to Waites and Stones in Swaffham, which has teamed up with Chris Riches Transport in Thetford to transport donations to the Ukrainian embassy, for further distribution to Poland.

Natalka Auker had been dropping donating items for Ukrainian refugees to Waites and Stones in Swaffham.

Natalka Auker had been dropping donating items for Ukrainian refugees to Waites and Stones in Swaffham. - Credit: Natalka Auker

Waites and Stones is acting as a collection point from 9am to 3pm, and 4pm and 5.30pm on Cherry Tree Farm, Brandon Road, PE37 8HN.

Ms Auker asks those looking to donate in west Norfolk to contact her on 07595491553 or for south Norfolk to contact Ms Sigley on 07935 814310.