Yana and Ira, the first of 30 families of Ukrainian refugees who are heading for Devizes, have arrived in the town.

Yana and her 10-year-old daughter arrived on Tuesday, three weeks after they fled their home in heavily-bombed Kyiv, leaving their husband and father behind.

“We left after bombs and rockets hit the city for the seventh time. Houses were destroyed, one rocket fell near a school, all the windows have gone, it was scary,” said Yana, 36, who worked as an accountant before the Russian invasion forced her and Ira to flee for their lives.

Like all Ukrainian adult men aged under 60, Yana’s partner, an IT manager, has had to stay behind to defend his homeland.

“There is no fighting for him yet because there is nobody there to fight yet, the Russians come at us not with men but with rockets and bombs,” she said.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Yana and Ira have found sanctuary from Ukraine in DevizesYana and Ira have found sanctuary from Ukraine in Devizes

Mother and daughter are now settling into their new home on Nursteed Road, which is being provided by Vanessa Tanner and her husband John Stephens.

It has taken the pair three weeks to reach Devizes after escaping Kyiv and heading for Warsaw, where they were matched with their Devizes family by Narelle Guthrie, who has been in Poland helping with the rescue of Ukrainian families.

Vanessa and John are one of dozens of Devizes families who have offered to take in refugees after an appeal for homes was launched on social media.

“The call came out of the blue from Narelle, who has been helping coordinating efforts from the refugee centres in Poland,” said Vanessa.

She added: “Why have we done this? Because you see the war on the news and you think, ‘if I needed help these people would probably do the same for me’.

“People of Devizes have been really generous in their help; Yana and Ira needed to stay in a hotel in Poland while the visas were worked out and the organisers of Devizes Food and Drink Festival paid for that.

"As another instance, I wanted to get a bicycle for Ira so I asked on Facebook if anyone had one and I got three bikes offered in 10 minutes.”

Vanessa confirmed that the UK’s notoriously-obstructive visa system for refugees was the headache that many media reports have said it to be.

“It took John and I five and a half hours to complete the visa application,” she said.

The Rev. Keith Brindle, vicar of St James’s Church in Devizes, who is helping to home refugees through the Love Ukraine Devizes appeal group, said 10 families from Ukraine are expected imminently in the town with another 20 to follow.

He said: “We are raising money to support Ukrainian refugees in transit to Devizes, those in the Lesko refugee centre, a town in Poland that Devizes is linked with, as well as refugees in Devizes.

“Money raised will provide accommodation and emergency needs of refugees are due to come to Devizes, to support the refugee centre in Lesko and support refugees and host families once the guests have arrived.”

To support the appeal go to www.loveukrainedevizes.org

The Government has given local authorities a key role in helping Ukrainian refugees. Wiltshire Council is co-ordinating efforts for refugees coming to Wiltshire and Claire Edgar, Director for Whole Life Pathway is heading up this work to provide checks and support the growing number of Ukrainian refugees who are due to settle in Wiltshire under the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.