Unhelpful: Overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers but let down by the NHS and UK government
Ukrainian Eugene Moroi has been reunited with his family but says he has been let down by Corby’s MP and the NHS
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By Sarah Ward
A Corby Ukrainian who managed to get his family to safety after their hometown was invaded by the Russian army says their resettlement in the UK has been hampered by bureaucracy and an inefficient health system.
Eugene Moroi, who has lived in Corby for the past three years says he and his family have been let down by the town’s Conservative MP, home office minister Tom Pursglove, his GP surgery and Kettering’s general hospital as he tried to help his distressed mother Yulia and stepfather Mykola who have travelled 1800 miles across Europe to flee Putin’s army.
He has told NN Journal of the ‘surreal’ situation the family have found themselves in, including his chronically ill stepfather Mykola having to wait for many hours at Kettering General Hospital for necessary dialysis treatment - only seemingly receiving the healthcare he needed after an English friend stepped in.
Eugene was also given a public assurance of assistance by Corby’s MP Tom Pursglove when he attended a vigil for Ukraine outside Corby Cube at the start of March, but other than an email to say he had forwarded his case to the director of visa immigration services, he heard nothing else from his MP (until NN Journal got in touch).
Instead it has been German strangers, local Corby folk, friends and councillors who have come to his aid and stepped in, offering his family free lodging and transport, helping to pay for flights and even becoming sponsors for Ukrainian friends of his, who they will now take into their homes.
Long route to safety
Eugene had been visiting his family in Odesa, south west Ukraine, in February, when the threatened war became a reality. He managed to cross the border into Poland on February 24 the first day of the Russian invasion and his mum, 46, did the same two days later staying with friends until her partner Mykola Ivanov, 55, joined her - able to leave the country after being given a medical exemption due to having kidney failure. The country had decreed that all men aged from 18 to 60 must stay and fight their country’s invaders.
Mykola and Yulia stayed with friends in Poland while Eugene tried to secure their way to join him in the UK. Yulia had applied for a UK visa using a home office partner in Kyiv on February 15, more than a week before the war began, but Eugene was having trouble trying to track it down, spending several hours on the phone to the home office to try and locate it. With Yulia’s passport and visa application seemingly lost in the system Eugene had to apply again for a visa and his mum went from Poland to Berlin to visit the UK visa centre*.
After an appeal on Facebook Eugene found them a place to stay in Hamburg with strangers.
“They were absolutely amazing. They were so kind and so helpful. They provided free accommodation, they were buying food, they gave them transport, they found a dialysis centre for my stepdad. They were amazing, they were just like angels for my family. They had a welcome party with drinks and food. They were just trying to cheer up my parents.”
After travelling from Hamburg to Berlin to the UK visa centre for a biometric assessment, they then had to wait eight days for an update. (The UK government had publicly promised this would happen within 24 hours). After the visa was granted they had to wait another four days for an update to say the passport could be collected from Berlin. Eugene then booked them a plane ticket to the UK.
Eugene turned up the volume in his car stereo and blasted out Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Winter - his and his mother’s shared favourite song - when he pulled into Stansted airport in the late hours of March 19.
“I turned it on quite loud so she knew she was approaching. The song is so powerful. It was crazy. We could not believe for two days that we were together,” he says.
Since then his mother and stepdad have been staying at his Corby home, trying to process what has happened to their lives. Their flat in Odessa is now empty and sits as a potential target for Russian airstrikes. This weekend Putin’s army, which has already wrecked brutal aggression across the country’s towns and cities killing thousands of Ukrainian people, has now fixed its sights on their home city. It has been hit by air missiles in recent days.
“She left so unexpectedly,” says Eugene. “First we were planning she was going to stay in the West part of Europe and we will see how it goes because nobody thought it was going to be so long. So she left the fridge on and food in it. All the flowers are inside.
“She seems happy because she is with me, but I think she has not realised yet what has happened and her life will be completely different.”
Eugene has also been trying to help other friends in Ukraine - he has managed to secure them a place to live as part of the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme. Martin Anderson and Corby unitary councillor Alison Dalziel will take in his friends.
Martin said he thought that Eugene and his family had been treated poorly, partly he thinks due to the hostile environment to immigrants that the Conservative government has created over the past few years, a process, which he says has now made it difficult for it to act quickly when it needs to in an emergency situation such as the Ukraine invasion.
Martin will provide a rental house he owns in Corby to a family of five and will take a further two Ukrainians into his own home.
He says he wanted to help because his own mother was a second world war refugee and wants to help Ukraine which he says is fighting a battle on behalf of all of us against Putin.
Mykola has kidney failure and for the past three years had been having treatment three times a week in Ukraine. Across Europe on his way to the UK he had been able to google hospitals and receive immediate treatment when he arrived. But things were not as easy on arrival in the UK.
After arriving on Saturday, March 19 Mikola needed dialysis the following Tuesday. Eugene had forewarned his GP practice at Great Oakley Medical Centre that his stepfather would be coming in to register and requested that it was done quickly due to his urgent medical situation.
“They told me (on Monday) no worries, it is not going to be a worry at all - we will sort it out for you.
They promised to give me a call during the day - no one called me.
“At 5pm I gave them a call back and said what’s going on? I’m not trying to rush you up with my mum because she does not need any treatment, but about him it is very important. You told me it is going to be very important. They said they had no information and will call you by tomorrow.”
The next day the surgery called him at 10am and advised that he go to Kettering’s accident and emergency department. 45 minutes later Eugene and Mikola were at the hospital but they were met by a lack of urgency. Mykola was put on a drip.
“I said ‘what are you doing’? He needs dialysis. It was ridiculous. I spoke with about seven doctors and 20/30 nurses and they were just referring me to someone else. They said ‘OK someone is going to be with you’. Someone else come in and they asked the same question - make round eyes - they don’t understand anything - they just go out.
“I bought all the documents. I’ve translated all the documents in Ukrainian from him, what procedure he needs, in what speed it should be done, in what dialysis machine it should be done.
“For me it was surreal. They were just walking around, I could not see they were busy.”
Eugene was told to leave at 8pm that night and the next morning treatment had not been given. Fortunately his friend Martin Anderson called to ask how Mykola was and after being told of the issues they were facing he and Corby councillor Lyn Buckingham got involved. 90 minutes later treatment was started.
“Maybe it is because I am a foreigner - I don’t know to be honest with you,” says Eugene, “but what I realised is that if you don’t have any powerful people in your surrounding probably you will be in trouble. I was scared to think what would have happened if Lyn and Martin had not been in touch with me.”
NN Journal put Eugene’s complaint in full to the hospital. A spokesperson said:
“All Ukrainian citizens are able to receive healthcare in our hospital. In our busy emergency department all patients, regardless of their nationality, are triaged based on clinical need and we use our clinical judgement and diagnostics to give the most suitable emergency treatment.
When patients are referred for specialist care, some services are offered at our partner hospital Northampton General Hospital (NGH). We do not provide some services, such as inpatient dialysis at Kettering General Hospital (KGH), and therefore patients may be transferred to NGH as the specialist site for care. While patients wait for this transfer, their stability will be maintained.
Our care is provided equally to all who need our services and patients would not receive a different standard of care as a result of any public intervention.”
They have asked the family to get in touch with them.
A spokesperson for the GP said:
“Great Oakley Medical Centre is very happy to register Ukrainian refugees when they become resident in our practice area. When any Ukrainian refugees are registered with our surgery we will offer these patients the same high quality care that we offer to all of our registered patients. This includes referral for specialist care and secondary care services offered by our local hospitals and community services.
“We are currently undertaking a full investigation within our practice, and our initial findings show that this patient registered with our surgery on 21st March and we began the process of arranging specialist review 5 hours after he registered. We are reviewing the timeline and phone calls received by the surgery and will be able to give the family a full update once our investigation is complete.
“We will always work together with system partners to ensure that any Ukrainian refugees registered at Great Oakley Medical Centre receive equitable care in Northamptonshire in the context of the strains experienced by the local health and care system.”
The UK government has been severely criticised for how it is handling the processing of visas for Ukrainian refugees. Last week shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said in parliament: “The British visa system is simply not working. It is leaving thousands of families in limbo because of home office bureaucracy. . . This is kafkaesque”.
Up to March 31 the government said 29,200 visas have been processed, the majority of those under the Ukraine Family Scheme with many thousands waiting for their Ukraine Sponsor scheme visa to be processed.
Corby’s MP Tom Pursglove is a home office minister, in charge of tackling illegal immigration. Eugene met the MP at a vigil for Ukraine North Northamptonshire Council had organised at Corby Cube on March 3.
“After I met Tom Pursglove he promised to help me. I sent all the info that he asked for and I’ve got one nice email from him which said: ‘Eugene thankyou for emailing. I will try my best to help. I will pass this case to the director of the UK visa immigration service’ and that’s it.
He has never been in touch with me anymore. He promised to help when there were lots of people around and he said the same on interview on the TV but I think nothing was done from his side - because I still don’t know where is her passport.”
**Eugene says he sent a follow up email on March 16 to the MP to which he received a reply and Tom Pursglove emailed Eugene again after NN Journal had put Eugene’s complaint to him.
In a statement to NN Journal the MP said for reasons of data security he could not discuss Eugene’s case.
“In my role as a Member of Parliament, I receive hundreds of emails every week, seeking help and assistance on a whole range of matters, including very urgent, serious cases, such as those relating to Ukrainian visas in the present circumstances
. . . . all Ukrainian visa related matters that have been raised with me during the course of this conflict, as a constituency MP, have been dealt with entirely appropriately, by return, with speed, thoroughness and urgency, by me and my parliamentary office.
“All have been kept updated at every stage as to the representations made to the Home Office and the replies received as soon as I have been in receipt of them. I have also chased outstanding replies at appropriate intervals and have equally asked each individual to keep me updated as to developments and to advise me, at any time, if I can be of any further assistance in raising their individual cases and any points of concern, or to make further representations as required. That is very much a standing offer.
“I shall continue to assist local individuals and families with loved ones in Ukraine, or displaced to other surrounding countries, as well as individuals who have made kind offers of support, in any way that I can, moving forward.”
Eugene says he and his family have been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends of strangers. He wanted to thank Corby councillors Martyn Reuby, Alison Dalziel, Lyn Buckingham plus Martin Anderson and his flatmate Nick Domoslavsky for their help.
“UK citizens are very generous but Boris Johnson and his team have failed. I really do like the UK and I enjoy my life here. But I don’t get this government.”
*The family decided to travel to Germany to access the UK visa centre rather than use a centre in Poland because Eugene was unable to find nearby accommodation. This was not on the advice of the UK government as an earlier version of this story stated.
** This information was given to NN Journal after publication.