Ukrainian grandmother ‘settling in well’ in the UK after 12-day rescue from war

‘How she’s kept herself together just shows the strength and the nature of these people,’ said her son-in-law Michael Felton.

29 March 2022

A Ukrainian grandmother is “settling in well” in a spare room in Cheshire after her British son-in-law spent almost two weeks rescuing her following the Russian invasion.

Michael Felton, 61, from Ellesmere Port, drove more than 1,700 miles to bring his children’s 83-year-old grandmother to safety in the UK after her home came under fire during Russian air strikes.

Mr Felton said it took “some coercion” to convince his Ukrainian wife’s mother Nadia, known as Babulya to her family, to leave her home in Kharkiv, north-east Ukraine, after Russia began shelling the city.

(PA Graphics)

“She’s pretty comfortable and happy now, I go over and put a Russian-speaking comedy show on for her that likes to watch,” he told the PA news agency.

“I haven’t asked her about the war, mainly because I don’t want to make her think about it any more.

“She’s not looking sad or tearful, or wanting to talk about what’s happened… it’s almost like she’s just accepting it for whatever it is.

“I would much sooner let her be content, sit and watch her shows, have a laugh, eat food, chat and be comfortable.”

Mr Felton said his wife of 15 years, who now lives in Thailand, has spent “most of her time in tears” after her elderly mother had been “prepared to die in her own home if necessary”.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Nadia left Kharkiv after Russia invaded Ukraine (Peter Byrne/PA)

He said the “frail” pensioner had been living alone and removing her hearing aids at night to block out the sound of Russian bombs.

Nadia, who can only speak Russian, eventually managed to escape Kharkiv on a bus with the young grandson of a family friend and her miniature Yorkshire terrier, called Ken.

She suffered a “horrible” fall while travelling and was left with bruises across her face before she was picked up by Mr Felton at the Polish border to begin the “exhausting” journey back to the UK.

They travelled by car across Poland before flying to Paris where they caught a train to Calais and then a ferry across the channel, arriving in Dover at 9pm on March 20.

It was there that Nadia was forced to say a “tearful” goodbye to her dog, who is spending three months in quarantine in Essex.

“It was horrible, she was very distraught and cried for a bit in the car when we drove off… you could see it was very upsetting for her,” Mr Felton said.

The pair then drove to Bristol Airport where they stopped overnight before making their final journey back to Cheshire the next morning.

Mr Felton said Nadia has “settled in well” and is staying across the street in the spare room of a neighbour.

“I just want her to be in a quiet, calm place with people who are smiling, where she hasn’t got to worry about where the next glass of water or slice of bread is coming from,” Mr Felton said.

“Imagine if someone said to you, here’s a suitcase go into your house and pack what you can… and you might never be coming back.

Michael Felton with his mother-in-law Nadia
Michael Felton with his mother-in-law Nadia (Peter Byrne/PA)

“Your whole life boils down to that one suitcase and you’ve no idea whether you will ever be able to come back to your home or even if it will still be standing the next day.

“It’s got to be horrible but how she’s kept herself together just shows the strength and the nature of these people.”

Mr Felton added that the process of getting refugees to safety from Ukraine should be made easier and the UK Government should be doing more.

“Even if it’s not a case of bringing them directly into the UK, there is definitely more that the UK could have done to help,” he said.

“Especially since the Government is still sponsoring the war in terms of supplying weapons to ensure that more killing continues.

“What will they do after all the Ukrainians are dead? I don’t know.”

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