Heart-wrenching moment little girl comforts tearful big sister over fears for dad in Ukraine

This is the moment six-year-old Anastasiia Shakula comforts her big sister as their mum talks of her family's fears for their husband and dad, Valeriy, who was left behind in Ukraine to defend his country.

Mum, Anna Shakula, was being interviewed by ITV Granada Reports correspondent Mel Barham with the help of her sister Nataliia, who now lives in Northwich.

Asked how difficult it was leaving Valeriy behind, the tears started flowing.

With Nataliia translating Anna's answer, little Anastasiia saw her 15-year-old sister Viktoria crying, she leaned over their mum to place a comforting hand on her arm.

Moments later, the six-year-old rested her head on Viktoria's lap before becoming overcome by tears herself and getting a cuddle from mum.

There was even more emotion when the family Face-timed Valeriy in Ukraine.

Anna and her daughters managed to flee Ukraine just before the Russian invasion to join sister Nataliia and her husband Brian Read in Hartford, Cheshire.

Valeriy was forced to stay behind to defend their country - but Anna says it is something he does willingly and has signed up for the Ukrainian Army reservists.

Before the war - Valeriy with Anna, Viktoria and Anastasiia

Anna, her daughters and sister Nataliia joined a vigil in solidarity with Ukraine, held in Barons Square, Northwich, where they received a round of applause.

They also met civic dignitaries including Northwich Mayor Cllr Sam Naylor and Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury, who secured visas to get the family out just before the Russian invasion began.

Anna with daughters Viktoriia, 15 and Anastasiia, six.

Nataliia, a quantity surveyor, said: “It was really nice to see the support of Northwich people and the elected representatives, to see that they care.

"It was mentioned that some Ukrainians would be seeking refuge here. And people were cheering and clapping. We felt really welcome.”

Nataliia met husband Brian 18 years ago when his company opened a Mothercare franchise in Kyiv and she worked for the shop fitters.

Full video report by ITV Granada Reports correspondent Mel Barham

She added: “My sister and family have been saying how friendly English people are.

"They give free English lessons in Northwich Library so they went there in their first week. Anna said the teacher is amazing.”

The family had lived in Ukrainian capital Kyiv where Anna worked in a farm shop and her husband Valeriy was a security guard at an American school.

They also met civic dignitaries including Northwich Mayor Cllr Sam Naylor and Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury.

Relief at getting her daughters to safety is tempered by the fact her husband, other relatives and friends are still in danger.

Anna speaks to her husband on the phone every day. He is now staying at their property in a village near Kyiv that was to have been their dream home along with his parents, sister and family.

Fortunately, it is ‘quiet at the moment’. There is a cellar for shelter if the bombing starts.

Nataliia said: “He went yesterday to sign up for the Territorial Army and is waiting for someone to contact him.”

She continued: “Anna’s daughter Viktoriia is older and seems OK but the younger one is crying nearly every night wanting to see her father.”

Nataliia’s husband Brian, a manager with the National Highways agency, is grateful to MP Mike Amesbury and his team for helping to get his extended family to safety.

He believes the Government should do more to allow other Ukrainians fleeing the war zone into the UK.

Ukrainian vigil in Manchester city centre.

Brian made a plea for local schools to accept his two nieces, who are keen to resume their education. Anna would also like to find work.

But she hopes to return to Ukraine with her family to be reunited with her husband one day.

Mr Amesbury said: “I’m just so pleased that I and my team could get Hanna and her family out despite considerable obstacles and bureaucracy in our way.

“My thoughts are with the husband Valeriy, who has remained behind, fighting for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”

He added: “Our community in Northwich and the Weaver Vale constituency have already embraced Hanna and the family, displaying true solidarity and that community spirit that is second to none.”

Listen to ITV News analysis podcast on the situation in Ukraine.