“I only had 20 minutes to pack a bag and escape the war in Ukraine”
And Nadiia is now getting used to her new life in Melton Mowbray – the first person to be taken in by a family in the borough under the government’s Homes for Ukraine programme.
The advance of the Russian invasion and the violent devastation inflicted on her country clearly scarred her mentally.
But Nadiia (37) has been touched by the welcome she has received from people in Melton and, in particular, from Phil and Karen Balding, who have given her a home near Asfordby Road.
It’s a world away from where she lived not far from the besieged northeast city of Kharkiv, where hundreds of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers have been killed by relentless Russian bombardment.
Nadiia told the Melton Times: “I cannot put words to what is happening in my country now.
“I read about it every day but I don’t watch TV because I’m going to cry.”
When she decided to leave, everything happened very quickly.
“My friend said we were leaving in 20 minutes and we have a seat in the car for you,” Nadiia recalls.
“I put clothes and some personal effects in a bag.
“In our jeep, there was a man, his wife, two babies, three other people and a dog.”
The danger was not ruled out, however, as the driver then had to plot a safe route avoiding various checkpoints held by Russian troops in this region of Ukraine.
They drove for two days until they reached the relatively safer western part of the country.
She lived with her friends for a few weeks in a small rented apartment before going to live with her mother in Hungary, but she was only allowed to stay for a short time.
Nadiia wanted to make a living in a stable home and when she got in touch with the scheme offering homes for displaced Ukrainians in the UK, the Baldings got in touch offering their home in Melton as a place of refuge.
Detailed checks have been carried out on them, with the threat of trafficking being a constant problem for vulnerable single women looking for a safe place to live.
Nadiia had two video calls with the Baldings and quickly knew they would be the perfect people to live with.
She said, “They seemed like good people and they were so nice to me.”
Nadiia, who asked us not to photograph her head-on as she settles into her new life, enjoys living in Melton and getting used to the cultural differences. She hasn’t tried a Melton pork pie yet but loves Stilton cheese.
“Melton is a wonderful place,” she said. “It’s a small town but I’ve met a lot of nice, nice people since I got here.”
The Baldings appreciate Nadiia living with them and are glad they were able to help her.
Karen explained, “We got involved because we were tired of watching the news every night and crying.
“We had helped raise money for Ukrainians through the church, but felt we wanted to do something a little more meaningful.”
Other people fleeing the war in Ukraine would soon come to live in the borough and the Baldings hope to help create a local social bond between them.
They are members of St Mary’s Church and say the church would be a great meeting place for them.
Karen added: ‘There’s a lot of paperwork to go through, sorting out things like a bank account, national insurance and a place in the doctor’s surgery.
“We could write a manual for other families interested in sponsoring Ukrainians. We would like to offer help to others who are considering doing what we have done.
Nadiia wants to find a job, possibly in office administration. She already speaks good English but wants to improve.
His life remains in limbo with uncertainty about how long parts of Ukraine will be occupied by the Russians and what life will be like when the war ends.
“I am grateful to the UK for the support you have given us,” Nadiia added.
“I think the airspace should be closed over Ukraine to help us fight back.
“I understand that no one wants to anger Putin more. But he’s done this to us before and he won’t stop.
A quiz is being held at St Mary’s Church, Melton on Friday 27th May to raise funds for DEC’s Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal.
Entry is for teams of four and costs £10 per person to enter, to include dinner without drinks. Email quizmaster Richard Angrave at [email protected] or call 01664 569493 to reserve a place.
***All Melton Borough residents interested in providing housing to people in Ukraine must first register on the government website.
Melton Borough Council tenants can apply to host someone under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.
The council’s standard tenancy agreements state that they have the right to have tenants to share their home with family as long as it does not lead to overcrowding, they notify the council in advance and they take responsibility people living with them. However, tenants cannot sublet their property.