Reunited Norfolk couple face further heartache following Ukraine escape

A Ukrainian woman reacts after arriving at the Polish border.

A Ukrainian woman reacts after arriving at the Polish border. - Credit: AP

A former Norfolk college lecturer has finally been reunited with his wife after she fled the Ukrainian warzone.

David Shaw, 63, drove from the UK to Poland to rescue his 47-year-old wife Dana and her mother, Hanna, after they escaped across the border from neighbouring Ukraine following the Russian invasion.

But the family are now facing a further obstacle, as a result of ongoing delays by the Home Office in processing a visa application for Hanna, 74, to be allowed to enter the UK.

While Mrs Shaw has been a UK passport holder since 2006, Mrs Petriv urgently needs a visa in order to enter the country as a Ukrainian refugee. 

Displaced people queue to get on a train to Poland, inside Lviv railway station, in Lviv, western Uk

Displaced people queue to get on a train to Poland in Lviv, Ukraine. - Credit: AP

It comes as the government announced that people living in the UK will be allowed to bring in "adult parents, grandparents, children over 18 and siblings". 

Mrs Petriv also meets the criteria for an emergency family visa based on health grounds and has previously been granted UK visitor visa applications through the British embassy in Kyiv on five separate occasions since 2002. 

Mr Shaw said: "On February 25, we phoned UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) and lodged a family visa application for Dana’s mother over the phone. The news about the developing Russian invasion made it clear to Dana and her mother that they had no choice but to leave Ukraine.  

“And while we were assured that Hanna’s application would be passed to the Home Office that day and that we would shortly hear directly from them by email or phone, we have still not heard anything.” 

Firefighters extinguish a building of Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) after a rocket attack in Khar

Firefighters extinguish a building after a rocket attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. - Credit: AP

Mr Shaw said the situation had exacerbated an already harrowing experience after his wife and mother-in-law arrived at a hotel in Warsaw “exhausted and very traumatised after a hair-raising bus journey”. The pair are currently unable to speak publicly about their ordeal.

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They made it to their hotel on March 2, following a journey across the Ukrainian border, near Belarus, and were joined by Mr Shaw the next day who undertook a four-day car journey from Milngavie, near Glasgow in west Scotland, where the couple now live. 

Friends in Norfolk supported him by raising more than £2,300 on GoFundMe to help him and a friend make the marathon journey in his VW Golf.

He added: “We still have no idea of how long it will be until we can all drive back home. We have had no phone calls or emails from the Home Office since February 25 and we are very worried that our initial application has somehow been totally overlooked.” 

The family has since phoned the UKVI again on a telephone number obtained from a minister in the House of Lords. Mrs Petriv's details were taken again and the call handler confirmed that the information would be passed on to a manager.  They have still not heard back from the Home Office. 

Men who want to fight in Ukraine walk to cross the border in Medyka, Poland, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

Men who want to fight in Ukraine crossing the border at Medyka in Poland. - Credit: AP

The family is now attempting to arrange a visit to the Visa Application Centre in Warsaw but these plans have also been thwarted due to the website not working. They plan to stay in Poland until they have managed to obtain a visa. 

Mrs Shaw had to leave the UK on February 9, where she has lived permanently since 2000, as both of her parents had been hospitalised with Covid. She had not seen them since August 2019.

Mrs Petriv was later discharged from the hospital but Ivan Petriv died on February 16, aged 70. 

Mr Shaw taught management at the College of West Anglia, in King's Lynn where his wife taught maths and English. The couple lived in North Wootton and Castle Rising. They have two daughters, aged 20 and 24.