First Ukrainian child believed to have been born in Wales since war began

Olha said she could finally take a 'deep breath out' knowing her family were 'in safety. Credit: ITV Wales this Week

After not being able to "sleep or eat", a mother of two made the decision to leave her home in Ukraine while heavily pregnant and travel for three gruelling days across Europe to Wales.

Shortly after arriving safely in Llandovery with her mother and two older daughters, Olha gave birth to her baby Stephania.

Now three months old, Stephania is believed to be the first Ukrainian child born here in Wales since the war began.

The family signed up to the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme launched by the UK Government, which matches sponsors who want to share their homes with refugees.

They were offered a safe haven on a farm owned by Matthew Paul and his wife Annabel and so made the journey by train from Ukraine to Wales in April 2022.

Olha gave birth to her baby daughter Stephania in April 2022. Credit: Wales this Week

Once she had arrived at her sponsor's home, Olha said she could finally take a "deep breath out" knowing her family were "in safety".

"I really just relaxed and took a deep breath out when we came to this house", she said.

"We went to bed and it was one of those first nights when we all slept well without listening to sirens and bombing and in the morning we just all were calmer and happy that we are in safety."

During the first week of the war, she said she couldn't eat or sleep.

"I was in a state of shock, I spent all day watching TV News thinking of what’s happening", she said.

"I would phone my family every hour in the North of Ukraine. I would hear more places were occupied and I couldn’t believe what they were saying.

"I felt sick all the time. It was very scary and frightening."

Olha with her family as they prepare for their new baby in Ukraine. Credit: Family Photo

But while Olha was able to leave the war behind, her husband Sacha wasn't as fortunate. He was only permitted to cross the border when their third child, Stephania was born.

Olha said: "It was very hard but I’m a mum and when you realise that it’s about the safety of your children then these decisions just come straight away."

Since Sacha has arrived in Wales, Olha says it's not been easy for the family to build a new life when their home is over a thousand miles away.

"I cannot tell you that I am back to normal in my everyday life because every day I get up and read the news and I promise myself that I will start living now", she said.

"But I don't think that I am living the life which I lived before and I don’t know when it will happen. It’s really hard."

However, Olha says her older daughters Vlada and Zlata are starting to settle into life in Wales well as they like the peace and quiet that comes with living on a farm.

"For the children, it’s much easier if they actually like it here. They have company, our hosts Mathew and Annabel have two kids so they play, they have fun and they enjoy it here", Olha added.

Matthew and his Wife Annabel said they did everything they could to help Olha's family rebuild their lives here in Wales. Credit: Wales this Week

In 2019 Wales announced its intention of becoming a nation of sanctuary - to provide shelter and support to those who need it most. Since then the Welsh Government has set up a 'Super Sponsor scheme'.

The initiative provides a way for Ukrainian nationals and their family members to come to the UK if they have a named sponsor here.

Funding for this scheme is provided by the UK Government.

Once Olha's family had arrived in Wales, their sponsors Matthew and Annabel were keen to help them in any way they could.

Matthew said, "Without having a bank account, being registered for the NHS you are in a sort of in a legal vortex where you don't really exist.

"And certainly financial services providers, mobile phone providers don't know who you are, so we were just getting them registered for everything.

"Getting a bank account sorted driving them to and from Carmarthen to go to Glangwili to get appointments to the hospital."

Olha says she has no words to describe the help her family has received from Matthew and Annabel.

She said: "We had emotional help too because we feel like home here, we feel so welcomed.

"We just cannot believe people we have never met before can be so helpful and so nice. We feel very lucky because other people are not."

Olha and her family lived a good life in Ukraine and she owned her own business. Credit: Family photo

As well as the 'Homes for Ukraine Scheme' which Olha's family has benefited from, the Welsh Government has set up 'Welcome Centers' which offer a place to stay, food, education and advice to those seeking refuge.

Jane Hutt Minister for Social Justice told ITV Wales: “We’re making grants available to local authorities to help them with their housing needs.

“They're also looking at other housing needs from their communities as well. A lot of housing needs that they’re also responsible for.

“There are grants available but also they are getting funding from the UK Government towards the support for public services.

The Welsh Local Government Association said: "The number of people arriving and the availability of hosting arrangements to move people out of Welcome Centres into appropriate sponsoring arrangements has been a challenge."

"However, all councils have done their utmost to deliver a compassionate and sensitive service."

You can find out more about Olha's story in Wales this Week: A Welcome in The Hillside on ITV Cymru Wales at 8:30pm on Thursday July 14.