Russian-Ukrainian couple broke down in tears when they were reunited with their one-year-old son in Poland after he was evacuated from the war zone in Ukraine with his extended family.
Tatiana Zavyalova, 39, and Vasyl Kucherka, 24, who live in north-west London, said they were “super emotional” after meeting their family outside the visa centre in Rzeszow on Tuesday.
In emotional footage of the reunion, Ms Zavyalova greeted Mr Kucherka’s sister, his sister-in-law, brother and mother before cuddling and kissing her son Misha.
Mr Kucherka – who had not told his family he was also coming to the visa centre to meet them – appeared after hiding, prompting his 48-year-old mother Olha Kucherka to break down in tears.
His mother, his sister Halyna, 23, brother Misha, 26, sister-in-law Vita, 27, and eight-year-old nephew Stanislav are then seen hugging in the car park.
One-year-old Misha was staying with his paternal family when the war broke out on February 24.
Tatiana Zavyalova holds her one-year-old son
As he was born in lockdown, he was unable to meet his grandmother, aunts, uncle and cousin for nearly two years.
The couple decided to let him stay with them so they could bond while they tried to sort the family’s visas to move to the UK.
However, during his time with them, Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, forcing the closure of air space and the couple were unable to collect him.
Ms Zavyalova, who runs a property development business, and Mr Kucherka, a builder, said it was “amazing” to see everyone again.
He told the PA news agency: “I’m really, really happy. I hadn’t seen them in a long time, and it was too much for me and my family. Today’s a big day for me and my family. But they’re still here and we want them to be in London.”
Ms Zavyalova added: “It’s been such a horrible last couple of weeks in terms of waiting, travelling and going through the borders. So it’s been dramatic, very dramatic. But finally, we’re all here and we’re very happy.
Ukrainian-born Vasyl Kucherka hugs his mother Olha Kucherka after travelling from London to be reunited with her in Rzeszow, Poland
“It was super emotional (to see each other). I’m happy the whole family is reunited and together. I cannot describe it, it’s just super emotional.”
Ms Zavyalova, originally from Yekaterinburg in Russia, said she could not believe a war had broken out between the two nations.
“I cannot put into words, to be honest,” she said. “In the 21st century, there shouldn’t be a war. If somebody told me that a year or six months ago (that it would happen), I would have never believed that was going to happen.”
The family were reunited in Poland after Olha, Vita, Stanislav, Halyna and the younger Misha fled from Buryakivka, in western Ukraine.
They left at 5am on February 27 – three days after the war broke out – and arrived in Poland the following day at 1am.
The family used a combination of driving and walking to escape, with little to carry other than a small amount of clothes in a backpack each.
They queued at the border for 10 hours before crossing over to Poland, where the older Misha was at the time the invasion began.
They are staying there temporarily in rented accommodation until the visas are approved – a decision which is expected in the next few days.
Ms Zavyalova said the family were going to have a large dinner to celebrate being together again.
“We’re going to have a big feast, a big, reunited feast, maybe with a cake, maybe with a glass of wine,” she said.
“Next step is getting the visas sorted and going back to the UK.”