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Natalia begins her new life with the Amidulla family

A Ukrainian woman, who is now living with a family in Driffield after fleeing the war-torn country has praised the kindness and generosity she has received since arriving in the UK.

Natalia Brehuz touched down at London Luton Airport on 16th April, where she met Driffield man Michael Amidulla for the first time, before travelling to the Capital of the Wolds to meet the rest of his family.

Michael’s wife, Nicola, had first made contact with Natalia five weeks previously, and started the process of bringing her to the safety of the UK after the 26-year-old trained lawyer and photographer fled her home in the Odessa region following the invasion of Russian troops.

Driffield is a really nice place, with nice people who have great hearts. I’m looking forward to spending time here.

NATALIA BREHUZ

After a frustrating period that saw Natalia’s arrival delayed by the Home Office’s much-maligned Homes for Ukraine scheme, she has now made her home in Driffield.

Until 24th February, the cities and towns of Ukraine were no different to Driffield, with people going to work, shopping and enjoying leisure time.

But everything changed when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of their neighbour, launching missiles and airstrikes across Ukraine, which was followed by a large ground invasion.

The war has caused the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the 1990s, with latest estimates suggesting that over four million people have fled Ukraine.

The UK has welcomed 21,600 refugees so far, including Natalia.

A couple of days after arriving in Driffield, she described the scenes before she left Ukraine to the Moldovan border as ‘scary’.

But it wasn’t until she saw the panic and heard the sound of planes and bombs being dropped on nearby cities that Natalia believed the invasion was taking place.

“It was so wonderful before the war,” she said. “We enjoyed every moment. But from 24th February, everything changed. There were bombs everywhere, people died and we all really don’t know why.

“It was such a shock for everyone when the Russian troops invaded. I got a call at 5am to tell me, but I didn’t believe it.

“My friend told me to take all my necessary belongings and leave but I still refused to believe her.

“But when I went walking with my dog, there was so many people around and all the goods had been taken off the supermarket shelves.

“Everyone was in shock. We all stayed in the village for two weeks and watched the awful scenes on TV.

“A Russian plane flew over our house, which was scary, and during the night, we closed our windows and blocked the light.

“There was no way we could have stayed and lived in Ukraine as we just don’t know who is next.”

The Moldovan border was the nearest to Odessa and Natalia was one of 428,577 refugees who travelled to the tiny Eastern European country.

After several weeks in Moldova, Natalia finally received the paperwork allowing her to come to the UK and live with her host family.

She said there was a feeling of disbelief when she got off the plane in Luton.

“There is now no safe territory or part of Ukraine,” said Natalia. “Everywhere is dangerous.

“4.3 million people have left the country and travelled to places like Poland and Germany, which are now full and they can’t take any more refugees.

“I went to Moldova, which is close to Odessa. When we were going to Moldova, there was many people, both in their cars and walking.

“I can’t describe how busy it was. Everyone was desperate to leave. But when we reached the airport in Moldova, it was much more organised.

“Ukraine is very different to a place like Driffield in almost every way. But when I arrived in the UK, the first feeling was relief.

“We couldn’t quite believe that we were here. Driffield is a really nice place, with nice people who have great hearts. I’m looking forward to spending time here.”

Natalia has been welcomed into the Amidulla home by Michael and his family and is already in the process of applying for jobs.

Having first spoken to her when she was ‘scared’ and ‘worried’ about what was happening in her homeland, Michael told the Wolds Weekly that Natalia is now at ease in Driffield, with no worries of the horrors she has left behind.

He’s looking forward to watching her flourish in her new hometown.

“Nicola and Natalia kept in contact via WhatsApp and we also spoke to each other via video call,” said Michael.

“Natalia lived in a flat on her own and we gathered that she was scared and worried.

“Although at that time Odessa hadn’t been attacked, it’s near the Black Sea and we knew that the Russians would be targeting it.

“As we continued to speak to her, we could understand the panic and frustration, which could also be seen on the WhatsApp group not just from the Ukrainians, but those in the UK who were hoping to help.

“A week before Natalia arrived in Driffield, she received the papers allowing her to come to the UK.
“I told my wife that she needed to tell Natalia to get here as soon as possible.

“However, Natalia wasn’t just scared about what was happening in her own country, she was worried about travelling.

“It’s the first time she has flown and she wanted to wait for her friend and her family. So, Natalia waited an extra week until they received their paperwork and they came as a group and looked after each other.

“When Natalia got off the plane at Luton, she went through passport control and the lady at the counter gave her a hug and welcomed her to the UK.

“At that point, Natalia realised she was safe. With no air raid sirens or shelters that she has to run to, she feels safe walking around.

“From our point of view, Natalia is a bright, intelligent young lady and we want the best for her. Her English is superb and we just want her to be safe and build her own future.”

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