UKRAINIAN refugee Lena Kulakovska has thanked the community for supporting her and her family as she celebrates giving birth to a new daughter in west Devon.

Lena, 37, who lives in Walkhampton with her three children, thanks to a kind host family after fleeing the Russian invasion six months ago, said that everyone has been very welcoming despite the economic pressures of the cost of living crisis.

She fled to the UK from her hometown of Kiev while 35 weeks pregnant by her husband Sergii, 39, who has stayed behind in Ukraine because he is of fighting age

She had ideally planned to give birth to Nicole, who is now seven weeks old, in their native land and left it as late as she could during her term, before deciding she must leave before she was stopped from leaving by the fighting.

‘It is far from ideal giving birth in a foreign land and obviously not what I’d planned.’ she said. ‘I’d wanted Nicole to be born in Ukraine. I hope Nicole will feel like a Ukrainian. I left it to one month before I was due, but I thought it would only get more dangerous with the fighting to travel and the Russians might take over and stop me. It’s also harder to travel with two children and a baby at the best of times, let alone during a war. I had to put the safety of my children before my interests, they are the most important thing in my life. So I came to England and have the best of experiences.’

The first time Sergii saw his daughter was on social media video — the best way of keeping in touch at such a long distance. He also chats this way with his other daughter Arina, aged five, and son Kyryl, seven.

Lena and her family initially fled Kiev to live in the countyside when the city was originally bombed and it was thought the Russians would conquer the capital. As the country marked its independence from the Soviets in 1991, she said: ‘It is very hard to plan our future, firstly because I don’t know when it is safe for me to go back to Ukraine, but also because the Russians bombed our newly-built flat in Bucher where there have been war crimes by the Russians, so we have no home of our own.’

The couple, Sergii a brand manager for a coffee factory, and Lena, an events manager for an upmarket restaurant, were supposed to move into the flat, but it was bombed before they could. Lena said: ‘Although we are longing for our own home, it was a lucky escape we could not move into the flat earlier.’

Sergii is now living in his parents’ flat, where the couple were living when the Russians invaded, waiting for their new home. Lena said: ‘The people here are very helpful, supportive and kind, especially my host family. I am so grateful and happy to be here and I appreciate the cost of living issues. Of course I miss Sergii, my family and my country and my work and it’s hard to stay optimistic. I also think of all the people I know who have been killed by by the Russians who we call terrorists, including my colleagues from my work. I get upset a lot, but don’t want to cry in front of my children. I need to be strong for them.’

Sergii, who voluntarily delivers rations to Ukrainians now qualifies for the right to come and see his family in because he has a third child.

She said her children are doing very well at Walkhampton’s primary school. In addition, the children both have to continue being taught the Ukrainian curriculum by Lena, so they are up to speed when they return.

As it stands little Nicole has no nationality, but an application is being processed by the Ukrainians. Her family reached Devon, through the help of Homes for Ukraine scheme, her hosts the Archdeacon of Plymouth the Venerable Nick Shutt, his wife Corinne and other volunteers. Ven Nick, who helps vet the refugees, said: ‘It’s worked out well for Lena and her family but we’re short of hosts with more than one spare room for similar families. Many come with support, so there’s usually an extra person, then children. It’s very rewarding, but there is a lot of bureaucracy both before and after they arrive, which is slowed up by war.’

Willing hosts are asked to email Ven Nick on [email protected]