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Ukrainian refugees beat up Russians and red tape to find safety in Sydney


A Ukrainian family with a nine-month-old child has taken refuge in Australia after a dangerous three-week trip that barred them from boarding a flight to Sydney.

Irina Zayets fled Ukraine with her mother Elena Kuzmich and nine-month-old Oksana when the Russian invasion began on February 24.

Ms. Zayets’ sister, Olga Lyaskakova, cried as she met them at Sydney Airport on Saturday, hugging her sister and mother and seeing her little niece Oksana for the first time.

“I’ve done more for Oksana than for anyone in my life in the last two weeks,” she told AAP.

No travel documents

“I’m so glad she’s here and she won’t remember the war.”

The family fled to Poland and received visas and flights to Sydney, but when they went on a flight in early March, they were not allowed because Oksana had no travel documents.

Ms. Leskakova struggled for two weeks with authorities in three countries to resolve the issue, as her sister and mother gradually lost hope that they would be able to reach Australia.

“It’s a great relief. I was very tense, it was such a long way to get them here, ”she said.

Australia, the land of sunshine and security

Ms. Leskakova said her sister, who was visiting Australia for the first time, was still delighted.

“She’s so impressed even with the air and the sky – she’s so excited to be here.”

The family has not had time to rest and is transporting furniture in Ms. Leskakova’s house all day to make room for the newcomers.

They are expected to stay for about nine months, depending on immigration rules.

Saturday’s Emirates flight to Sydney was half a dozen other Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, and Ms. Leskakova believes hundreds more people who have obtained Australian visas face similar problems with travel documents.

The Department of the Interior has said it gives priority to visa applications for Ukrainians, and all Ukrainian citizens already in Australia whose visas expired before June 30 will receive an automatic extension for six months.

Meanwhile, a small number of demonstrators held Ukrainian flags and sunflowers near the Russian embassy in Canberra on Saturday morning.


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