Halyna Wright and her son fled their home in Odesa Ukraine on the first day of the invasion, making their way across the country before escaping into Poland, but they are now stuck there, awaiting a visas to fly to the UK
A mum and her nine-year-old son are trapped in Poland after they fled from Ukraine and the oncoming Russian army.
Halyna Wright, 39, lived in Odesa, Ukraine, and was an assistant teacher at South Ukrainian National Pedagogical University.
She took her son, Kyrylo, and left their home, making for the Polish border after the invasion began on Thursday.
However, she is now stuck in Poland, desperate to reunite her family as her British husband is in the UK and she awaits the outcome of her visa application.
She and her son are hoping to fly to the UK on Wednesday, and have told of the “terrible” journey fleeing their homes and trying to get to Poland.
She woke at 5am on the day Russia invaded.
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She said: “It was a very strong noise, like bombing, two times.
“I called my brother straight away because he works in the military and I asked him, ‘what is this?’ and he said ‘the war has started’.
“I said, ‘are you joking?’ and he said ‘no, it’s really happening’ – I couldn’t believe it… from that moment, I didn’t sleep.”
Halyna and Kyrylo made their west westwards to Lviv, by train, then continued their journey on car before completing the final 12 miles on foot.
“It was very hard and it’s still winter – there was snow,” she said of the walk to the border.
“There were mothers with children, one, two years old – some of them even less than one… it was just terrible.
“While we walked, we saw so many times people left their baggage… they were so tired, they didn’t have the energy, so just left it.”
Halyna said the Russian invasion felt “like a dream” to many Ukrainians.
Next, the mother and son are now headed towards Warsaw to submit documents to the UK’s visa application centre.
Her husband, Mark, 45, is currently living in Basildon, Essex, and the pair met in Odesa in 2018, and married four years later.
Mark is Kyrylo’s stepfather and said he had “three, four, five days of pure anger” after Home Secretary Priti Patel ruled out a visa waiver for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.
Halyna sadded: “We didn’t believe until the end that (Putin) would do it.
“Everyone was shocked – the next few days people were on their phones, watching the news all the time, trying to understand what was going on.
“For many people, it was like a dream… they say, ‘I don’t believe it’s happening, I don’t believe it’s real’.”
She said she believes Russian president Vladimir Putin does not want Ukraine to “continue their European way of life”, as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has today applied for Ukraine to join the 27-nation European Union.
“(Putin) is living in the 16th century,” she said.
“We don’t want the Russian way of control – of no honesty, we don’t want him and we don’t want his style.”
She also praised the Ukrainian army and how the country has come together.
“The war, of course it’s bad, but how our country is changing now – it’s amazing,” she said.
“For example, in the west people speak more Ukrainian and in the east, Russian, but now all people are together… it doesn’t matter what language you talk.
“We’re all together, we support each other, and we are so proud of our army.”
Mark added the war is “disgusting” and “horrendous”.
“It’s an absolutely terrible war,” he said.
“These young Russian guys, they were just told, ‘Right, you go to war,’ and that’s probably why they are losing – their heart isn’t in it.
“At the end of the day, the smaller guy with more heart will always win (over) the bigger guy whose heart isn’t in it.”