Ukraine crisis: Londoners desperately trying to rescue family after ‘unpredictable’ Russian invasion

Daniel Cojoc and his Ukrainian wife are trying to bring her mother who is “alone” in port city Odessa to join them in east London.

Londoners with family trapped in Ukraine have told how they cannot sleep due to fear of the “unpredictable” situation, amid an escalating of tensions with Russia.

Daniel Cojoc and his Ukrainian wife are trying to bring her mother who is “alone” in port city Odessa to join them in east London.

It comes as Russian president Vladimir Putin said he recognised two rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states and marched in troops to the area.

The longstanding leader has deployed at least 150,000 Russian troops - thought to be up to 60% of the nation’s army - to the border, including the zone close to the Donbass - a region of southeastern Ukraine containing the two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Widespread international condemnation followed, with the UK promising to hit Russia with a package of sanctions and Germany halting approval of the key gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2.

Tatiana, left, with two of her grandchildren, and daughter Natalia. Photo: Supplied

Construction site manager Mr Cojoc, 50, originally from Romania, lives with his 46-year-old wife Natalia, and their three children, in Upton Park, Newham.

But Mrs Cojoc’s elderly mother, Tatiana Orzherevskaya, lives in Odessa, on the Black Sea.

“At the moment, me and my wife last night, we didn’t sleep,” Mr Cojoc said.

“Putin is unpredictable. You don’t know what to expect from him. He said ‘it’s our territory, we’ll take our territory’ and immediately 7,000 troops went into the Donbass.

“My mother-in-law is quite scared - and I am scared with my wife.”

The Home Office emergency family via route applies to immediate family members, such as children, spouses and the parents of under-18s.

But Mr Cojoc has implored the authorities to reunite his family, and says his mother-in-law is alone in what could soon be a war zone.

From left, Tatiana Orzherevskaya, with two of her grandchildren, her son-in-law, Daniel Cojac, and daughter Natalia. Photo: Supplied

He said: “My wife and three children are here and we are British citizens.

“My mother-in-law is our blood. She is not just a relative - she is the mother of my wife, the first person related to her by blood… I don’t understand how they can say children, wife and husband can come, but mother no.”

He added: “She has no relatives or siblings there. Her sister was living in Germany but she died of cancer in 2016. My father-in-law also died of cancer in 2016 - she is alone over there.

“She has some friends but they are doctors and have visas to get out and relatives outside the country. She called us last night at 1am. A lot of Ukrainians are starting to get out before the war.

“My wife doesn’t know what will happen to her. I don’t know what we will do.”

Mr Cojoc said he contacted the Home Office as well as authorities in Ukraine, and was told Mrs Orzherevskaya would need to travel to either Lviv or Kiev, hundred of kilometres away.

The UK embassy cannot guarantee she would receive a visa, and that he is not able to fill out an application on her behalf from London.

“I don’t know what will happen over there and what time it will take,” he said.

“They said it will take between three weeks and six months. But from one day to the next, nobody knows what will happen.”

While a frightened Brit stuck in Kiev with his family told the Evening Standard: “It looks like we’re now in a warzone.”

Nathan Rossiter, 31, his Ukrainian wife Lena, 24, and son Leo, five, are desperately waiting to hear if they have been granted a family visa to come to the UK.

Mr Rossiter, a web designer, from Harlow, Essex told the newspaper how they made a 300-mile trip by train from their home in Kharkiv to the capital Kiev on Monday to submit their application.

He said: “We’ve done everything we can to get out as fast as possible. But it looks like we’re now in a warzone.

“It’s a worrying time – the last thing I wanted for Lena and Leo. Some flights leaving Ukraine are being cancelled... while we wait for a phone call from the Home Office or Foreign Office to say if we got a family visa.

“My mum in the UK is really, really scared. She wants to know where we are at all times.”

But John, a British national living in Ukraine, who did not want to use his surname, told LondonWorld the situation was “much more tense after the events of yesterday”.

He added: “It is still quiet here at the moment. It’s surreal knowing that war could arrive at any moment and yet just going about our normal routines. Schools, kindergartens and shops all open as normal.”

And the former Londoner, who lived and worked in the city for several years before moving to Kharviv, a big city in the east of the country, previously told LondonWorld: “We’re not struggling to leave Ukraine. This is our home and, with two children, leaving is not a viable option.

“We’re nervous of course, but life goes on as normal. My wife has gone to work, our son to school and our daughter to kindergarten.”

Last week, he said: “We celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday with a traditional English meal of takeaway curry and beer. Everything is open, people are shopping in the market as normal.

There is no visible military activity, I haven’t been to the city centre since Saturday but everything was normal, no tanks or soldiers in the streets. My wife drives in to the centre every day and she hasn’t seen anything either.”

The Home Office has advised “immediate family members of British nationals in Ukraine” to call them for assistance before applying for a visa under the family migration route.

A visa application centre is now open in Lviv, Ukraine, for those eligible.

While Melissa Simmons, British ambassador to Ukraine, said: “I continue to work in Lviv with my team. I strongly advise British nationals to leave the country while commercial travel is available.

“Please contact us if you need advice or help on +380 44 490 3660 or check http://gov.uk for latest travel advice and info.”