‘Desperate’ struggle to get family out of Ukraine

A Lewis couple have been recounting their “desperate” struggle to secure their extended family a safe passage out of Ukraine to join them on the island.
The family's case was raised in the House of Commons.The family's case was raised in the House of Commons.
The family's case was raised in the House of Commons.

Derek MacLeod, the owner of the filling station and shop in Barvas, and his wife, Nataliya Karpyak, have spent the last number of days working day and night to get Nataliya’s parents, Miroslav and Emilia, her sister, brother and other family members out of the war-torn country.

The family are currently located near the Polish border.

Speaking to the Gazette, Derek said: “We contacted Priti Patel (home secretary) to get visas but we just don’t know what’s happening. The whole thing just seems so slow and there really isn’t the time to wait.

"We’re on the phone through the night and when we’re talking to them in Ukraine you can hear the sirens going off. It’s a desperate situation.”

Nataliya added: “We are trying to get my family out of Ukraine and come to Lewis. We are still waiting for Priti Patel for the visas to get them out of the country. We were hoping to get them on Monday but we have not heard back from her. Every hour that passes is endangering my family's life. We are worried sick and wish they would hurry up before they get killed trying to leave.”

Their case was raised in Parliament by Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil but not before sharp exchanges when Mr MacNeil was told by the Speaker to stop “chirping” after shouting at the home secretary to: “Get on with your job”.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle told him: “Order, Mr MacNeil. I expect better. I do not want you chirping all the way through. I want to make sure that you get a question, and your question will be important. Do not waste that opportunity”.

Ms Patel then hit back. Acknowledging the Speaker’s intervention, she said: “You effectively asked Mr MacNeil to be quiet. He contacted me with a case at the weekend—I think it was on Sunday—and he had a response within minutes. That response came from me, as I picked up the case personally, so I do not need to be told to get on with my job, thank you very much.

“I am very sorry that the SNP does not want to listen to a word I have to say, but there has to be recognition that we have been working across Government for weeks with countries in the region and with the Ukrainian Government to provide the schemes and assistance for which they have asked”.

Mr MacNeil asked about the 20 or so members of Derek MacLeod’s extended Ukrainian family, “normal people who are now refugees on the Poland-Ukraine border”. He said it was a “simple question – can the 20 come to the Isle of Lewis?’.

Ms Patel said they “are looking into it”.

Mr MacNeil said: “The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine is very concerning and urgent action is needed t o help people who are trying to flee the conflict.”