A MAN who fled war-torn Ukraine has said he and his family feel they’d “be better off going back” after arriving in the UK.

Michael Haley, 61, grew up in Allenheads but moved to Ukraine in 2005 after meeting his wife Alla online some years earlier.

When war broke out, Michael, who has lived in Fourstones, Ovington and Chollerton, and his wife were living in her family’s flat in Kyiv with her mother Valentyna; they were in the country for the first eight days of attacks, sheltering in a corridor of the apartment building.

The family left Kyiv with their one-year-old pomeranian Archie and the belongings they could carry, travelling from Amsterdam to Newcastle by ferry. 

Hexham Courant: Valentya with ArchieValentya with Archie

Archie, which Michael bought for his wife who had had operations for cancer and suffered badly with menopause, was taken into quarantine in Aberdeen, with officials saying, at the time, they needed to do blood tests because he had both Ukrainian and European passports with all vaccinations. He has still not been returned to their care.

Michael, Alla, and Valentyna are now living in a flat in Newcastle.

“It’s like they’re looking for reasons why they shouldn’t help”, said Michael, who worked in Ukraine as a teacher before setting up a translation business.

“Everything has changed, and I don’t know how the system works anymore, it doesn’t seem to work at all.

“I’d like to get a job and get into normal stuff but don’t know where to start. My passport had expired. When they took the dog, I wanted to go back to Amsterdam but can’t. 

“I wanted to get my driving licence here, but you have to be a resident for 18 months before you can get a licence. I passed my test here but they won’t let me renew.

“I kind of thought something would be organised to help people when they first came but there was nothing. 

“We have a place to stay but we’re in shock. Even opening a bank account is difficult, I’ve no bills in my name. Even to apply for universal credit, you have to have a bank account.

"It’s all just stupid, little technical rules that seem to be just designed to make people’s lives difficult or miserable, I think.

“People have been lovely, given us stuff, food, and clothes, been really helpful and supportive but the moment you step into anything official, it’s different. 

“It’s like a dystopian nightmare and I speak English, it must be so much harder if you don’t speak the language.

“What the Government did with this sponsorship scheme is shameless, instead of having to organise help, they’ve put the burden on the sponsor, they’re dumping Ukrainian families on the sponsors who will feel obliged to help with the bureaucracy.

“We don’t really know what the future is going to be but we’re all sitting here thinking that we would be better off in Kyiv, if it wasn’t for the dog we’d be there now.  

“At the moment, we are a burden on ordinary, nice people and feel we’d be better off going back.”

READ MORE: https://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/20134628.hexham-couple-give-ukrainian-refugees-keys-south-shields-home/