Good-willed Hexham couple give three generations of Ukrainian refugees keys to South Shields home

Yuliya, her teenage daughter Ksenia, her mother Olga and dog Nika have fled Ukraine

A Ukrainian family has spoken of the "overwhelming kindness" of a Hexham family who has helped house three generations of a family and their dog.

Yuliya, her teenage daughter Ksenia, her mother Olga and dog Nika were given the keys to a South Shields property by kind-hearted Hexham couple Sarah and Chris Martin.

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Sarah is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor and lives in Northumberland with her husband and two young children.

The match is the first to be made by charity MAD Foundation’s Operation Safe Drop.

The MAD Foundation, working with local Ukrainian charities, arranged to get Yuliya and her family from Kyiv to Lviv in Western Ukraine and on to Przemysl in Poland.

Yuliya and Ksenia could apply for their UK Visas online as they had more modern biometric passports.

However, Olga only had an older passport and so had to travel into Poland to apply for the visa in person, as it requires her biometrics to be registered.

This has meant a long wait in Poland for the visa to be processed.

As well as helping with travel out of Ukraine, the MAD Foundation assisted the family, matching them to a host family in the North East and has ensured they were housed safely whilst the visa application was processed.

Sarah Martin is the granddaughter of holocaust survivor, the late Edith Askew, who came to South Shields from Vienna in the aftermath of World War 2.

Edith’s father, Sarah’s great grandfather, was born in Ukraine.

The family are now home in South Shields

Sarah, who works as a Town Planner for Northumberland County Council, said: “I was shocked to watch the horrors unfolding in Ukraine and as it became clear that refugees would seek sanctuary in the UK there was no question about doing everything I could to help.

“People of the North East are famous for their hospitality and charity, speaking with friends and colleagues there is an overwhelming desire to help Ukrainians, but many are uncertain of how best to help.

“MAD Foundation’s Operation Safe Drop has been a tremendous support to me and families in assisting them safely leave Ukraine, helping with matters when they reach Poland and their onward travel to the UK.

“It was a great sense of relief and joy when Yuliya and her family finally arrived in the UK.”

Speaking through an interpreter Yuliya said: “John and Kari have treated us very well. They have done a lot for us.

"We are so thankful to Sarah and her family who have sponsored us through the visa process and are providing us with a lovely house in South Shields.

"They wrote to us often asking how we are. We are overwhelmed to have met them and at the kindness they have shown us.”

Hexham’s Chris and Sarah with their family

Cllr Jim Foreman, Lead Member for Housing and Transport on South Tyneside Council, said: “We’d like to offer Yuliya, Ksenia and Olga a very warm welcome

“We have a fantastic community here in South Tyneside and I am confident that Yuliya and her family will be embraced with kindness, generosity and hospitality and made to feel at home.

“As with all people seeking shelter in the borough, we as a council stand ready to offer support and resources to ensure a smooth transition and help the family feel safe and settled as quickly as possible.”

You can support The MAD Foundation's work via a JustGiving page here.

So far, over £4,000 has been raised to aid the charity's efforts, but organisers have said that more is needed to fund transport for families from Poland to the UK.

Potential hosts in the UK must first register their interest through the government scheme before applying for a match online by filling out an application developed at the UK desk at the Humanitarian Aid Centre on the Polish border.

Once a potential match is found, charity worker John will contact the potential host with questions and information about who they are able to support.

If a match is agreed upon it will be checked with the UK Government desk out there and ‘formalised’.

Once approved, the team will assist arrange transportation for the families to travel to the UK.

John said: "Our aim is to provide a safe, efficient and free final leg of the journey for those who were forced to make it to keep their children safe.

“Poland has been an incredible host for these families but the pressure there is enormous, and we want to do our bit to ease some of that pressure by supporting families to the UK.”