Leeds student trying to bring Ukrainian family home stuck in Poland due to visa chaos

A Leeds student helping bring Ukrainian relatives to England claimed UK Government staff are not familiar with new rules imposed, less than 24 hours after they were brought in.

Volodymyr Chapman, 27, is helping bring his cousin Yulii Volovnikova, 24, to England after she had to flee the war.

At the UK Government centre in Rzeszow, southern Poland, they brought birth certificates to be scanned to begin the process of bringing Yulii to stay with her aunt and uncle in Suffolk.

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Volodymyr, who is doing a PhD at Leeds University, claimed UK Government staff were not yet up to date with new rules introduced on Monday - although he said civil servants were trying their hardest to help.

Volodymyr Chapman, 27 doing a PHD in Leeds met Cousin Yulia Volonnikovg, 24 a call centre worker from Eastern in Kyiv Ukraine, at the Polish Border. They are now trying to get a UK Visa from the application Centre in Rzeszow, Poland.

He flew into Krakow on Monday, March 14 and drove three hours to the border to help Yulii and her younger sister, aged ten, who they declined to name.

But new rules brought in mean Volodymyr may need to stay in Poland longer than planned, although it is hoped they can travel back together.

Volodymyr said: "I came to Poland yesterday to collect my cousins, grabbed a car and went straight to the border.

"We are waiting, if the documents are uploaded it's a three to five day wait until you get a case worker to review the files.

Yulii Volovnikova is trying to get to England with her cousion Volodymyr Chapman after having to leave her home due to the war.

"You get an email allowing you to do the rest in the UK.

"The rules changed today and they don't know what the rules are.

"My fear now is we have an appointment,

"Supposedly if you submit documents here, you have to pick up a visa in Warsaw.

"We have got original birth certificates, all they do here is take photocopies.

"Surely someone from the Foreign Office could be here.

"Supposedly if Ukrainians have international passports and submit the documents it can be with a case worker in three to five working days, they can get biometrics done in the UK.

"For Europe it is easier, because Ukraine has an agreement that means people can stay for three months.

"If only such a system existed in the UK, they could go over there if they have submitted the documents.

"It would be nicer if there was a stepping stone.

"I'm going to have to extend my stay because of the new rules.

"The staff here are very understanding, they have got sweets for the kids and cakes.

"I believe they are doing everything they can but it's higher up where the problem is.

"I don't know if it's incompetence or malice."

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Yulii fled her parents' home in Zhytomyr on February 24 after being woken by explosions at 5.40am.

The call centre worker left behind her parents and her dad has joined the territorial defence force, and her boyfriend is also fighting.

She was living in Kyiv but returned home to see her family on February 23 after being warned there might be an attack, and woke them up the following day to tell them the war had begun.

Yulii said: "I booked a car for February 24 and woke up from the explosion at 5.40am.

"I didn't know what to do, I checked my phone and started checking the news.

"I was shaking and crying, I didn't know what to do.

"I waited until 7am and woke my parents up and told them 'the war has started'.

"My father used to be a soldier, he joined the territorial defence, my boyfriend went and fought in the east and he joined back up.

"My mum is a schoolteacher.

"We were in a bomb shelter under our house.

"They say they bombed military objects but they are just bombing random things."

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