A disabled Ukrainian refugee who was shot at by Russian soldiers and had his home bombed has spoken of his relief at being welcomed to Peterborough with open arms after escaping his war-torn home land.
Max Yaschenko, who uses a wheelchair, and his parents, Vitaliy, 58, and Sveta, 59 lost their home in a village near Chernihiv, Ukraine, when it was bombed in March.
The family finally escaped with help from local church members taking just a carrier bag full of possessions.
They were able to come to Peterborough thanks to city couple John and Rosie Sandall, who have been friends with Max and his family for 25 years.
John and Rosie regularly travelled to Ukraine to help families who were still being impacted by the Chernobyl disaster.
"Russian soldiers shot directly at our car. They could see we were just ordinary people”
Max, 31, said: “It was terrifying when the bombing started in our village. Most of our neighbours lost their homes. One night a shell hit our home. It’s a miracle we survived.
“Then we realised we would have to escape but we didn’t know how. Eventually a local Baptist church started evacuating disabled people like me. They drove us to Poland which took several days and was very frightening. The worst time was when Russian soldiers shot directly at our car. They could see we were just ordinary people. The bullets came into the car but somehow they didn’t hit us. The driver somehow managed to keep going. It was the most frightening thing that has ever happened in our lives.
"Eventually we got to Poland and we stayed for several weeks at a centre for disabled people where we were well cared for. With the help of our dear friends, John and Rosie, we eventually got our visas. They paid for our flights and met us at Stansted. They have furnished a flat for us.”
"We miss our home but we feel glad to be safe here.”
Max and his parents have now moved into a flat off Oundle Road.
Max, who has never been to school, taught himself English from the Internet.
He and his parents are signing up for English classes at the City College.
Max hopes to start a university course on computer programming in September.
He added: “Peterborough looks a lovely city. We’ve already visited the Cathedral. Of course, we miss our home but we feel glad to be safe here.”
Sveta said: “We were very sad to leave our home and the village where we have lived all our lives but we feel lucky to have friends like John and Rosie to help us. We have known them for 25 years. Everyone here has made us very welcome.”
John and Rosie from Longthorpe, visited Chernihiv, twice a year for the past 25 years where they support many disabled people.
Rosie said: “We are delighted that Max and his family are now safe in Peterborough after all the trauma they have been through. We are still supporting many other friends still in Ukraine whose homes have been bombed.”