Ukrainian student fears for mother’s safety in Lviv

Lana Kozak said she fears for Ruslana Kozak’s safety after Russia invaded Ukraine.

02 March 2022

A Ukrainian student who is studying in London has said she feels guilty for being in the UK while her mother is in Ukraine.

Lana Kozak, 20, said she fears for Ruslana Kozak’s safety after Russia invaded Ukraine.

She moved to the UK three years ago to study a foundation course and journalism degree at Central St Martins from her hometown of Lviv.

Lana Kozak
Lana was last in Ukraine a month ago. She is pictured in Lviv (Lana Kozak/PA)

Meanwhile Ruslana Kozak is on her own in the city after her parents went on holiday before the invasion.

Lana told the PA news agency: “My mum right now is in Ukraine and everyone else from my family is out because they were on vacation in Egypt. They cannot go back to Ukraine at all, so they’re just staying there.

“My mum is alone and, under the new rules, she can come over with our dog to the UK, but because of the situation right now at the border, she doesn’t want to go.

“Nobody from our family wants her to go through that as the situation is so severe.”

She added: “I feel really guilty being here and I think that’s something that many Ukrainians are feeling at the moment.

“I want to go home. I want to be with her because she is alone right now. If I could, I’d switch places with her. I’d do anything.”

Describing the situation at the border, Lana said: “My friend went through the border just when the war began and it took her four days to get through.

“They had no water, no food, no way to go to the bathroom. Thank god, there were volunteers that were giving out food and water from the nearby village.

“My friend told me that there was great panic there and a newborn got crushed to death on the second day because of the swarm of people.”

Poland Russia Ukraine
A family arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

Lana said her mother is staying at home most of the time and hiding in the family bunker when air raid sirens sound.

She said: “I speak to her twice a day, every day, morning and night. She’s doing all right. I think what is surprising is how people in the middle of it are handling it – it’s a mixture of fear and bravery. They just keep going.”

Lana said she has been in touch with the Ukrainian Embassy and claimed they told her that people who want to leave have to go through the border in order to be able to get free transport to any country.

“Right now the line is 30 to 40 kilometres (19 to 25 miles) long, and it takes people days to just pass through. It’s also cold and snowing,” she added.

Lana has also been taking part in protests, volunteering and gathering medical supplies and clothes for refugees and members of the army.

She said she is encouraging people to donate what they can, in particular milk powder for babies, to nearby collection points in the UK to help those who are fleeing.

“I think the British Government needs to catch up with other countries that are helping refugees so much right now,” she said.

“It’s great that people who hold passports or are settled can now bring their extended family, but that’s not enough.

Russia Ukraine War
Cars head to the Poland border near Shehyni, western Ukraine (Pavlo Palamarchuk/AP)

“We have so many people fleeing and Poland is taking almost all of the refugees.

“It’s so brave of them to do that and it will be remembered.

“We’re not asking the UK to take all Ukrainian refugees but at least extend to more than just family members.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that more Ukrainians will be allowed to enter the UK to join family members.

Downing Street said people living in the UK would be allowed to bring in “adult parents, grandparents, children over 18 and siblings” in addition to immediate family members, who had previously been allowed.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that would widen eligibility to about 200,000 people, twice the number previously estimated.

A new scheme will also allow individuals and organisations to sponsor Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK.

The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) currently advises against all travel to Ukraine.

It has said that people should follow the advice of the Ukrainian authorities while there and urged people who cannot leave the country safely to stay indoors and away from windows.

The Ukrainian Embassy has been contacted for comment.

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