A Cupar family are set to enjoy a belated Christmas with a Chernobyl orphan whose festive plans were scuppered by a visa wrangle.
Yaroslava Naida (14) had been due to arrive from the Ukraine on December 16 to spend Christmas with Anna Beattie and her family at their home in Constable Acre.
But her flight plans were left up in the air after the Home Office at first refused her a visa, then took five days to process the documents following a change of heart.
It meant that Yaroslava missed the Christmas she’d been looking forward to spending with Anna and her two youngest children Adam (14) and Tyler (10).
Now she’s due to arrive at Edinburgh Airport from Kiev on Hogmanay - and it’s sure to be an emotional reunion.
“Her Christmas presents are still lying under the tree,” Anna said.
“Yaroslava has never spent Christmas with us, so we were all very excited. It was devastating to hear she wouldn’t be here after all. We’re going to do Christmas all over again just for her.”
Anna first met Yaroslava in 2007, when she was working for a charity in County Durham that brought orphaned children to the UK. Then aged six, Yaroslava had been in an institution since she was just four, her parents having died from diseases caused by the after-effects from the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl.
“She was a poor, bedraggled, frightened little thing,” said Anna.
“But after medical treatment and lots of tender loving care she returned to the Ukraine three weeks later a different child. Since then we’ve stayed very close and my two youngest children have grown up with her.”
Back home in Ukraine, Yaroslava lives in poverty in a one-bedroom flat with her grandmother and two sisters, aged 12 and 16, near the toxic wasteland known as the ‘dead zone’. Her grandmother’s now in her 70s, and Anna sometimes worries about what will happen to the girls in the future.
For now, though, she intends to make it a New Year to remember for Yaraslova before she returns to Kiev on January 16.
“That was the date she was originally supposed to go home but I didn’t ask for an extension to her visa as I didn’t want to rock the boat for the future,” said Anna.
Yaroslava’s visa was originally turned down because the Home Office thought she might not return home.
Stephen Gethins, MP for North East Fife, described the situation as ’outrageous’ and said he’d already written to Home Secretary Theresa May and would raise it in Parliament.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “As we cannot tell in advance how long it will take to decide particular cases, our advice is not to make non-urgent travel arrangements until the passport has been returned.”