Cardiff couple face 'agonising' wait for news of family fleeing Ukraine

A couple from Cardiff face an "agonising" wait for news from their Ukrainian family, after a failed attempt to help them flee to safety in Wales from the Russian invasion.

Yulia Noble, originally from Ukraine, and her husband John travelled to the Ukrainian border to escort their son, his biological father, and Yulia's elderly father out of the war-torn country.

The couple also drove a van full of supplies donated by people from South Wales for refugees.

Their three family members made it as far as Germany but their journey to refuge in Wales was halted when they discovered that Yulia's father's visa had expired.

Having travelled back to Cardiff alone, Yulia and John are desperate to be reunited with their relatives.

Yulia has been left heartbroken by the scenes in Ukraine.

Yulia said: "We were just heartbroken because we know how fragile their health is and the shock of the war itself.

"It's agonising. We're not young ourselves and we've taken it very badly.

"I'm watching the news 24/7 because I feel like I have to be with them and I can't watch anything else simply because I feel guilty because I am not there defending my homeland.

Tearing up, she added: "Sorry, it does hurt."

The invasion of Ukraine has torn it apart - with more than 2.9 million refugees fleeing the country in less than three weeks, according to the UN.

John described the tragic scenes their family have witnessed: "They'd seen the television masts blown up, they'd watch tanks roll down outside their windows. The train station had been bombed the following day."

Russian forces pounded Ukrainian cities early on Tuesday morning. Credit: PA Images

On Monday, the UK Government announced a sponsor scheme offering people £350 a month to house Ukrainian refugees even if they have no ties to the UK.

Some 90,000 people have signed up to host a refugee, which they will be expected to do for at least six months.

There is no limit on the number of Ukrainians who could enter the UK under this scheme, although it is not clear how many Britons would be able to help.

But crucially, refugees still need a visa to reach the UK, which John described as "self-defeating".

"It's a never ending circle. There's people that have no passports.

"This online application process being set up - well of course everybody managed to flee with their printers and their computers and they're able to get online and do all this," he added sarcastically.

"These guys are in cars with nothing."

More than 2.9 million people have fled Ukraine in less than three weeks. Credit: AP

Andrea Cleaver, chief executive of the Welsh Refugee Council, said: "We're not going to see large numbers going through that primarily because not that many people will have spare rooms or have the means to support individuals in those situations.

"So it will be taking small numbers in and that's why we're really urging the UK Government to take a much more safe and legal route via a resettlement scheme."

There is a separate family scheme where up to 200,000 Ukrainians with family in the UK can seek sanctuary there.

The scheme is open to anyone with parents, grandparents, children or siblings in the UK.

Just 4,000 visas have been issued out of 17,100 applications submitted since the scheme opened on March 4.

This was the total number of visas granted so far as of 3pm on Sunday, according to the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Valid passport holders no longer have to attend in-person appointments to submit fingerprints or facial verification, and we have also expanded capacity at our Visa Application Centres to 13,000 appointments per week across Europe to help those without their documentation.

“This week, the Government’s sponsorship route will open to allow Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK to come here and we will continue to work closely with our Ukrainian partners to deliver the measures we have put in place.”

The Home Office has added that people can apply for visas on their phones.

Read more: