The story of a Northampton man's rescue bid for his partner in Ukraine is one of fear, sadness and frustration but also devotion and hope for the future

‘I have lost all that I owned. I long for the day when I can return home… and feel safe once more’

By Cassandra Campbell
Friday, 29th April 2022, 2:59 pm

The Ukrainian tragedy has touched so many – even a team member of a Northampton-based computing firm.

The last few months have seen thousands of tragic stories emerge from war-ravaged Ukraine – tragic stories that have touched individuals and families across Europe.

So it is with Paradise Computing’s Stephen Madison.

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Stephen Madison's partner, Viktoriia.

Stephen’s partner, Viktoriia, with her daughter, Iryna, are two victims of this dreadful, unjust war. Theirs is a story of fear, sadness and frustration, yet a story of devotion and of hope for the future.

Stephen is a Sage 200 ERP Support Specialist. A month before the invasion of Ukraine, Viktoriia and Iryna had applied for a visa to spend time with Stephen in the UK. Following the invasion, they fled from Kyiv to Gdansk in Poland. With so much uncertainty surrounding their short-term safety, the best option seemed to be moving to the UK to stay with Stephen.

Stephen set off on a 14-hour trek across the channel and driving through four countries, before reaching Viktoriia and Iryna in Gdansk. A quick phone conversation with the UK’s Visa Application centre seemed to confirm that a visit to the Visa Centre in Calais would be enough to gain official permission for them to stay in the UK.

Three hours of waiting through the night at Calais proved that entry into the UK was not to be as straightforward as they had been led to believe. British Border Forces re-directed Stephen, Viktoriia and Iryna to Paris. Here, matters took a turn for the worse. In spite of having demonstrated to the Visa Application Centre that they had paid for their initial visa application in Kyiv, the Visa Centre staff rejected their application. They were instructed to re-apply and wait for a response from the Embassy.

However, help was at hand. The owner of their hotel, just outside Paris, put Stephen, Viktoriia and Iryna in touch with a local organisation dedicated to supporting Ukrainian refugees. Within hours, the Communal Centre for Social Action (CCAS) in Beauvais had found them a ‘social apartment’ – a place to stay for as long as they needed.

Meanwhile, Paradise Computing were able to support Stephen with the necessary technology enabling him to stay connected to the office, while still supporting Viktoriia and Iryna.

Two weeks elapsed before the Visa Application Centre were in touch, asking yet more questions. It was a further week before Viktoriia received an email advising her to collect their visa documentation. Imagine their dismay when they learned that, although Viktoriia’s visa application had been granted, Iryna’s had not.

Iryna has stayed in France, where she is still living in social accommodation in Beauvais. She’s looking for registration in the country to give her temporary residential status. To help her find work, she’s learning French.

And Viktoriia? In her own words, she said: “Stephen and I are getting used to life back in the UK. I’m settling down, but at the forefront of my mind are thoughts of relatives and friends back in Ukraine. For now, I have lost all that I owned. I long for the day when I can return home … and feel safe once more.”

As for Stephen, he is, of course, happy in the knowledge that Viktoriia and Iryna are safe.

“The last couple of months have been difficult and, on occasions, traumatic – especially our experience in France with the UK’s border authorities, who were frustratingly unhelpful. However, we’re enormously grateful to Paradise Computing. Not only did they grant me compassionate leave and support for the long journey, they also provided everything I needed to work remotely while I was away.”

A spokesperson for Paradise Computing said: “We feel privileged that we’ve been able to support Stephen in his ‘rescue mission’ and look forward to the day when Viktoriia, Iryna and the millions of their fellow countrymen and women are able to return home to a life of peace and harmony.”

To raise funds to support Viktoriia’s safety here in the UK, Stephen has set up a GoFundMe page – https://www.gofundme.com/f/VictoriiaFromTheUkraine