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Ukrainian mother ‘overwhelmed’ as she and her sons are given keys to their new home in Wales

20 May 2022 5 minutes Read
Ukrainian mother Lilia Onopa, 43, with her children who fled Russian bombing.

A Ukrainian mother and her six children who fled Russian bombing have been handed the keys to their new home in Wales.

Lilia Onopa, 43, and her children received an official welcome in Chepstow, South Wales, on Friday by members of the local community, Archbishop of Cardiff George Stack and Monmouthshire Conservative MP David Davies.

Having fled their home in a remote village north of Dnipro in central Ukraine, where military strikes began in early March, Ms Onopa and her boys travelled to Bucharest, Romania, by taxi after attacks on the port city of Odesa made alternative methods of travel impossible.

They landed in the Welsh town a week ago after waiting five weeks for the British Embassy to approve their online application.

At the ceremony Ms Onopa was given the keys to a bungalow, the former caretaker’s property which has been refurbished by volunteers from St Mary’s RC Primary School and Church with donations from across the parish.

Pupils, governors and PTA members along with church parishioners gathered with the archbishop and Mr Davies at the school to give her the keys.

Speaking of the horrors she and her children had encountered after the war began, Ms Onopa thanked everyone who had helped them get to a place of safety, including the British Government who she said came to her aid when there were issues with their applications.

As she recalled their experience escaping the fighting many in the room became tearful, including her interpreter.

Ms Onopa said: “The horrible situation happening to our country is because one person, one regime decided my country should not exist, that my nation should not exist.

“Imagine living next to a neighbour.

“He might have completely different opinions but you do live together.

“And one day your neighbour decides to invade your house, destroy your house, kill your kids, just because they think you’re going to invade them.

“I’m sure every mother can understand, I was not so much scared for my own life but for the lives of my children,” she added.

“We saw our cities being destroyed, rockets falling on our houses and people dying, and the worst thing was we could do nothing to stop it.

“All we could think about is what are we going to do next.”

‘Overwhelmed’

Ms Onopa said she posted an appeal for help on social media and a group in the UK said they would help her.

She said travelling to the border she had seen thousands of displaced families, desperate for a route out of the war-torn areas.

In tears, she told the PA news agency: “I was terrified I would lose my children so I wrote the addresses and contact details of my family in their rucksacks and clothes in the hope that should I die someone would know where to take them to safety.”

Since arriving in the UK Ms Onopa has said she has felt “overwhelmed” with support.

“When I first saw the home where we were going to live, visited the school where my children will go and went to Sunday service I was overwhelmed with all the support.

“I don’t have enough words to describe how grateful I am to everyone who helped.

“I’m overwhelmed with the feeling that my kids can finally feel safe.”

Ms Onopa said she is keen to learn English and has already enrolled in classes.

Having been a keen cook and baker in Ukraine, she said she would like to start her own pastry business, and she wants to volunteer to help other Ukrainian refugees settle.

She said her sons Dimitro, five, Sergiy, eight, Nikolay, 10, Illia, 11, Rusean, 13 and Oleg, 15, are looking forward to beginning school.

But the devastation continuing in her own country where many of her family members and friends are still remains a source of fear and turmoil, she said.

“As a nation we haven’t stopped fighting but it’s very difficult.

“Just a couple of days ago I saw a 23-year-old boy from my village had been buried after being killed by the invaders.”

Ukrainian mother Lilia Onopa, 43, with her children who fled Russian bombing.

‘Generosity’

Presenting Ms Onopa with the keys, Mr Stack said: “This is an opportunity to say to our new family croeso i Gymru, welcome to Wales. The land of sanctuary.

“And we hope and pray that you will be happy and fulfilled and content as you begin to understand what wonderful people live and work in Wales.”

Chair of governors, Phil Cotterell said: “Lilia and her family will not be alone, there is an incredible network of support here in Chepstow, and as a governor at St Mary’s, I am thrilled that we are welcoming children from Ukrainian refugees into our school family.

“We know from the generosity of the community supporting our appeal that all families fleeing Ukraine will be made most welcome in South Wales.”

The appeal was supported by a number of local businesses including Alcumus and Barratt and David Wilson Homes South Wales, and community groups such as the Chepstow and Caldicot Lions and Chepstow Roundtable.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Mum’s smiling, hopefully the kids will be before long…

Quornby
Quornby
1 month ago

Croeso.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
1 month ago

Croeso i Gymru 🏴

Rebecca
Rebecca
1 month ago

I don’t think you should promote this when our own families are struggling with housing food and fuel
I wish this family all the luck in the world but we need to remember our own so we we can help others going forward
Our smazing men fought in wars too we should have progressd .. very sad times

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

Look up Sir Nicholas Winton…

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

Why not? We are a large enough nation. It is possible to do more than one thing at a time.
As regards the war comment, fighting in wars hinders progress. Until the “respeck are buoys” crowd realise this, the cult of warfare continues. The only thing to progress from warfare is the development of newer more efficient and more cruel ways to end lives.

morgan jones
morgan jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

I truly understand your views Rebecca and your right as we all feel sorry for them and others like them as our people are at this moment in time due to the recent price in everything and our families strugling to survive we should be at the fore front and be helped.Young families needing homes should be our priority .Once more i feel very sorry for these people but think of our people as well

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

If Wales or the UK was ever invaded by a more powerful adversary that was committing unspeakable war crimes and genocide against I’m sure you would be more than greatful if a foreign country put you and your family in a place of safety.

janne gandy
janne gandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

We are being invaded; a handful each and every day.

Matthew
Matthew
1 month ago
Reply to  janne gandy

are you refering to immigrants from england buying up cheap housing in rural wales ?

M.
M.
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

no.. unfortunately Rebecca you do not wish them well if you think anyone is worse off than anyonelse. wRead a bit about the trauma of war.. then speak.. please do not be like this all your life.we are all human .. we all suffer…. look into those boy’s faces and tell us they do not deserve peace.

Susan Gooding
Susan Gooding
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

Am glad someone else think the same way as me its a nite mare for all of use in the UK

Sion Cwilt
Sion Cwilt
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan Gooding

So why not focus on who the real culprits are, the Tories and all who support them, whether by voting for them, or through not voting for the alternative. The plight of UK citizens is in no way the responsibility of Ukranian or any other refugees and the situation of no UK citizen is in no way as deperate as that of refugees fleeing violence, political oppression or war. That’s not to say that the plight of poorer UK citizens should be ignored, quite the contrary, but to try to blame refugees is despicable. Ther Tories and all who support… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Sion Cwilt
Sion Cwilt
Sion Cwilt
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

Why not try placing the blame for the ills of the UK where they truly lie eh? How about emphasising that the reason why UK citizens are struggling to find a home and to put food on the table is down to one thing, and one thing alone – Tory greed! It doesn’t need to be this way. The UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and could easily help both Ukranian refugees, and also ensure that UK citizens are adequately housed, and have enough income to eat and heat. What doesn’t help is people spewing Daily… Read more »

Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

Wow, what a lack of compassion. I hope you are not representative of that community.

Matthew
Matthew
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

they already brought back your borders

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Croeso i Gymru
Slava Ukraini
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🇺🇦

Last edited 1 month ago by Rob
Matthew
Matthew
1 month ago

I wonder how many of the people commenting on this thread are also immigrants in Wales.

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