By Phil Kemp & Lucy Manning
BBC News

Image source, Vitalii Tatarynov

Image caption,

Vitalii Tatarynov is hoping to bring his mother and sister back to the UK

Vitalii Tatarynov took a train from London’s King’s Cross at the weekend. He was embarking on a rescue mission.

His sister, Anna, and mother, Viktoria, had just spent 36 hours on a treacherous journey from the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih – and he met them in Poland, hoping to bring them back to the UK.

Home Secretary Priti Patel went to Poland early on Friday to announce that British nationals and anyone who has settled in the UK can bring immediate family, parents, grandparents and siblings to safety.

Ms Patel announced that visas for family members will last three years – up from the initial plan of 12 months – adding the UK was “standing in solidarity” with Ukrainian refugees.

But the scheme she has launched does not help Vitalii, 33, because the 18 months he has spent living and working in London isn’t long enough to count as ‘settled’ status.

Ukrainians with family in the UK have told the BBC the government should make more effort to provide refuge for those fleeing the country.

Details of a sponsorship scheme that may help have yet to be announced, but Labour is calling for emergency visas to allow any Ukrainian, who passes the necessary security checks, to come to the UK for up to a year.

Image source, Vitalii Tatarynov

Image caption,

Anna and Viktoria travelled through military checkpoints and huge, snaking traffic jams to cross the border

“There are requirements from the government that I need to have the ‘settled’ status to be allowed to bring my family to the UK so I can take care of them,” Vitalii tells the BBC, over a video call.

“It would be really nice if they can live next to me and I can help them on an everyday basis, rather than sitting and wondering if they are OK.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine means that Vitalii’s sister Anna, 18, cannot finish high school. Instead of searching for a place at university, as she had hoped, she is a refugee.

“It would be great to come to the UK, because this country has many more possibilities to have a better life,” she says.

On her trip to the Polish border town of Medyka, the home secretary told reporters that Ukrainians seeking safety in Poland were fleeing “the most atrocious set of circumstances where they are being persecuted by President Putin”.

Asked by the BBC whether she would widen rules to allow more family members to come to the UK, she said: “We have today launched our extended family route, which will cover the individuals that you’re speaking about. They can come to the United Kingdom, there are no barriers to them coming to the United Kingdom.”

Under the scheme, the Home Office says normal requirements for salary or language tests are being waived, but essential security checks will still take place.

But Vitalii is not the only person who is concerned about family not being allowed into the UK.

Image source, Tania Shevereva

Image caption,

Iryna and Tania Shevereva had to flee bombing in Kyiv

Tania Shevereva, 30, and her mother Iryna sought refuge in the mountains when bombing began in Kyiv. They travelled for 28 hours through Slovakia to reach Prague in the Czech Republic.

Iryna has been with her British partner Jock Mendoza-Wilson long enough to qualify under the government’s scheme.

But Tania does not think she will be able to join Iryna in the UK under the new scheme.

Image source, Iryna Shevereva

“Of course I want to be close to my mum. She has a problem with her heart and she is crying all the time, so I am worried about her,” says Tania, an art director from Kyiv.

“When you are close, you can check and you can make her comfortable. But if she is far away, I will worry much more.”

As for so many, it is still sinking in how quickly their fortunes have turned around.

“I still can’t believe that I am a refugee because I have a very good education. I had a very prestigious job in Kyiv. I won international awards,” she says.

“It is so hard to believe that now you are a refugee. You don’t have clothes, you don’t have anything.”

Image source, Tania Shevereva

Image caption,

The mother and daughter say they cannot believe how their fortunes have changed

Image source, Tania Shevereva

Image caption,

Tania took photos of their escape from Ukraine

There may be more help on the way.

The government has said it will launch a new sponsorship scheme, which would match individuals and organisations with those who do not have family ties to the UK, allowing Ukrainians to come for an initial 12 months with the ability to work and access public services.

But details about the scheme have yet to be released.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has called on the government to introduce emergency visas that go “beyond the current family provisions” and allow Ukrainians to come to the UK for up to a year.

“We do not want to sit and just get money from the government,” says Tania.

” We want to do something, to work, to have a normal life.”