Ukrainian refugee finally 'feels happy and safe' after arriving in UK with family

  • Full video report as Sergei Koletvinov's family become one of the first to settle in the South East

A Ukrainian refugee has told ITV Meridian he finally feels safe after arriving in the UK with his family.

Sergei Koletvinov has now settled in Kent, after spending more than a week waiting for his wife and children's visas to be approved in France.

Sergei's is one of the first Ukrainian families with no links to the UK starting to arrive in the south east, as major changes to the visa scheme come into force.

Sergei's family waiting for their visas to processed in Calais

ITV Meridian featured Sergei's story on Thursday (10 March) as he arrived in Calais to obtain the documentation he needed, after making a desperate journey across Europe.

The 44-year-old has permanent residency, but was then forced to travel more than 70 miles to Lille for processing to secure visas for his wife Oksana and children Alisa, 8, and Simon, 2.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale met the family of four in Calais and has now organised a safe place for them to stay in Kent. Sergei said, "I feel very happy, and I feel safe now.

"I'm not having to worry about my family."

Sergei's children Simon and Alisa are settling in to their new home in Kent

Sergei's parents-in-law remain in Ukraine and are hiding in an underground basement as the village they live in has been bombed by Russian forces.

Oksana told us she has already lost a member of her family.

"I feel very upset every time I speak to them. I can hear the bombs falling."

  • Ukrainian refugee Oksana Koletvinova says it's impossible to not think about what is happening back home, as her parents are still stuck there

The couple revealed that their two-year-old son had questions about the bombing after hearing the shelling as they travelled towards the Poland border.

Sergei says if the situation changes in Ukraine they hope to return home, but he's now one of thousands hoping to secure work in the UK.

The MP for North Thanet Sir Roger Gale was instrumental in helping the Koletvinov family find a safe place to live in Kent.

Sergei Koletvinov meeting North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale at a visa application centre in Calais

He said, "I just felt that, if we could play a role, and help even one family, then we should do it.

"If enough people do it, then soon enough we will be helping a lot of families.

"One of the things we now have to pursue very seriously, is how we get primary school children into schools, mixing with British children and begin to learn the language, because most of them won't speak English.

Mr Gale is now calling for a 'meet and greet system' to be put in place for the families.

  • North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale

Home Secretary Priti Patel announced last week that from today (Tuesday 15 March) it would be easier for those fleeing the war-torn country, with refugees able to fill out their visas online and travel to England to complete them.

The Home Office had issued 4,600 visas so far under the Ukraine Family Scheme as of 4pm on Monday, the department reported.

According to data published on its website, 17,600 applications have been submitted and 10,900 appointments have been made at visa processing centres.

More than 100,000 households have registered an interest in opening up their homes to a Ukrainian refugee.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities tweeted: “Thanks to the generosity of the British public we’ve received over 100K expressions of interest from individuals and organisations so far in our Homes for Ukraine scheme.”

No 10 said it would “encourage” those willing to provide accommodation to fleeing Ukrainians to offer longer than the minimum stipulation of six months.

But Downing Street said most refugees would “want to return home as soon as possible”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Ukrainian ambassador to London, the Ukrainian government has been clear that the vast majority of those forced to flee will want to return home as soon as possible, so at this stage it is hard to predict what length of time people may want to stay.”