'We have an empty nest': Leeds couple among first in UK to offer home to Ukrainian refugees

It's difficult not to be overcome with feelings of powerlessness when we see the Russian shelling of Ukrainian cities and the displacement of millions of people - but one Leeds couple have stepped up to do their bit.

By Richard Beecham
Saturday, 26th March 2022, 12:12 pm

Piano teacher Tina Barry and her husband David, who both live in Guiseley, were so horrified by the pictures emerging over the past few weeks that they felt they had to offer up rooms in their house.

They are now set to be among the first households in the UK to take in Ukrainian refugees as strangers.

So what made them want to help?

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David and Tina Barry will be among the first households in the country to take in a Ukrainian refugee family.

"Just looking at the telly," said Tina. "Seeing those poor people in Kyiv and all those cities, I thought 'those people need help now'. We thought 'what can we do?' and decided we had space. We tried to sign up for the government scheme straight away and it crashed!

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"There are divided families and homeless children. What can we do? We can offer a room to them."

"We sort of have an empty nest, in a sense. Our daughter has left home so we are left with a couple of spare bedrooms. We felt we could offer them up and be some help."

After struggling to get anywhere with the official government Ukraine refugee scheme, Tina got in touch with local travel agent GOAT Roadtrip.

In response to visa applications for the scheme having opened last week, GOAT’s CEO Kevin Cabra Netherton drove to the Polish-Ukrainian border and has been working with local NGOs to identify Ukrainian refugees who want to move to the UK and assist them in this process.

"We signed up to the government scheme to offer our home and nothing happened with that," Tina said. "I saw on the TV that GOAT were going to Poland to match people like me. We are at the stage now where they have gone over to the refugee centre, we have been matched up and we are just waiting for the UK government to process that."

But the Visa process for the refugees, which Tina understands to be a woman and her teenage son from Kyiv, has been fraught with uncertainty.

"Nobody can tell me anything right now," Tina said. "They have to sit in a refugee centre, knowing we are here for them knowing we could have them tomorrow, but they can't do anything until the Government machine rolls into action.

"It really is frustrating," she added. "At the moment it is just about getting them through..

"When the mum and the boy do come, they will be the first to set foot. People who have family or friends over there have been able to get them through, but they will be the first who don't know us.

"Any publicity that is attached to this helps, and I think there will be a wave of people willing to help."

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