Dover couple re-design their home ready to welcome Ukrainian refugee family

Watch: Full report on how a Dover couple are re-designing their home to accommodate a Ukrainian family

A Ukrainian woman trying to reach the UK says she is overwhelmed after a couple from Kent offered to adapt their house, ready to home her family after fleeing from the war.

Roxy Mokhnenko, 22, left Kyiv two weeks ago, with her partner, her mother, and brother, Roman who uses a wheelchair.

The family faced a terrifying journey from the capital, and headed to the city of Lviv, before reaching the Polish border.

Roxy (left) with her mother (right), her brother Roman and Clare Moseley from Care4Calais Credit: ITV News Meridian

From Poland they travelled through Germany, Belgium and eventually to Calais in France.

Speaking about their journey, Roxy said, "It was really tough.

"The hardest part was going from Ukraine to Poland, but after that it was much easier.

  • Roxy Mokhnenko describes the fear of the bombs in the capital Kyiv as she waited for the train

"When you're comparing, what happened in Ukraine, and then in Europe, it was two completely different things.

"You can't really explain the fear. I was scared I would be waiting for the train, and they will bomb everything, and we will die there."

Roxy says the UK is the logical place for them, because she was training to be an interpreter at university in Ukraine. Britain will become their home for a while, even though they have no relatives over here.

Roxy with her cat Mini

Working alongside refugee charity Care4Calais, ITV Meridian has put the Mokhnenko family in touch with Gareth and Gemma Porter from Dover, who say it's the least they can do to help those in desperate circumstances.

"We have plenty of space which we can offer to people," said Gareth.

"We're safe, and we're warm and the kids are fed, not struggling out on the streets in the cold.

"We're offering a safe warm environment. We are going to adapt the house, so we hopefully suit their needs, and offer them somewhere to live."

  • Gareth and Gemma Porter took action after seeing the Mokhnenko family on ITV

The family are in need of somewhere accessible for Roxy's brother Roman who is disabled.

At home in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Roman has access to a specially adapted bathroom, something they don't have where they are staying in France.

For the last week, the family of four have been living in a cramped hostel near Lille, while they wait to apply for their visas.

The bathroom the family are currently using

After the Porters heard their story and their needs from ITV Meridian, they were keen to help.

Gareth and Gemma from Dover have offered to redesign the entire layout of their house to accommodate them. 

The couple are planning to install a ramp to enable Roman to move around freely, and put a kitchenette in an area of the house for the family to use.

  • Gareth shows ITV Meridian how they plan to adapt their home

The Porters' offer comes as it was announced the government will ask the British public to open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, amid continuing criticism of ministers' response to the refugee crisis.

They are one of more than 90 hosts across Kent who say they are ready to house refugees, which has been organised by Thanet-based mental health charity SOLVE.

Community Secretary Michaels Gove is expected to announce a hotline and webpage for people able to offer a spare room to those fleeing the war-torn country.

ITV Meridian understands there will be a vetting process for any UK residents who want to open up their homes.

  • Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais worked with ITV Meridian to connect the families

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities spokesperson said:

 “The Secretary of State for Levelling Up will set out a route by which the British people can offer a home to people fleeing Ukraine. We will be sharing further details on this over course of the next few days.

 "This is alongside our expanded family route which has already seen thousands of people apply, as well as changes to visas so that people can stay in the UK safely."

Although the scheme is being managed by Mr Gove’s Department, the Home Office, Treasury and Department for Work and Pensions are also involved in the talks because of the complexity of the scheme.

  • Roman sings a Ukrainian poem for ITV Meridian

Since filming with Roxy and her family, they have been moved to a new apartment, which has medical support on site and is more suitable for Roman's needs.

She says for the first time, there is a light at the end of a dark tunnel, thanks to the genuine kindness of the Porter family.

"I really appreciate that people are ready to have another four people they don't really know, they're accepting people in their house.

"This for me is really really special and I can't imagine how they feel right now and I'm really grateful and really thankful to them."

Asked whether she can relax yet, Roxy said: "No, not right now when you don't have the stability in life, it's impossible to relax because you're waiting for something to happen."