A Ukrainian father is fighting to rescue his 10-year-old daughter – who is stranded in a city that is one of Vladimir Putin’s major targets – and bring her back to Scotland.
Alex Achkasov, a Ukrainian-British national who lives in Carnoustie, Angus, is desperately trying to get his daughter, Alisa Achkasova, out of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where she lives with her mother.
Under UK law, Alisa is considered a British citizen because of her father. But the British consulate said the 10-year-old would need to get a British passport before she can be guaranteed a safe passage to Scotland, a process that could take months to complete.
“For Alisa to get a British passport, she needs to send a passport photo to me, so I can find a British national to countersign it,” her father said.
“I would also need to send my immigration documents like my naturalisation certificate to the British embassy in Ukraine, which might not even be here in a matter of days.”
Artillery fire and missiles have pummelled Kharkiv in the last 24 hours, the second largest city in Ukraine, located 30 miles from Russia. Explosions began in the early hours of Thursday morning, just 45 minutes after Russia announced the invasion.
Achkasov received messages of desperation from his friends and family trying to escape the barrage.
An old school friend told him he is sleeping in the bathroom to avoid shelling that is permeating his neighbour’s windows in Kharkiv. His daughter and her mother are so scared, they have vacated their top floor flat.
“My daughter and her mother have moved in with my parents. They live in the same tower block, but it’s a lot safer to stay with my parents on the second floor,” Achkasov said. “Alisa doesn’t understand what’s going on. She wants everyone to get along.”
The only other means of escape for Alisa and her mother is to travel to the Polish border, a 700-mile journey across a country under siege.
“On a war-torn road, that journey’s not just tricky, it’s nearly impossible,” Achkasov said.
“One of my friends made the trip, and he was turned away at the border. He has to stay in Ukraine, as men are conscripted to fight under martial law.
“That’s the journey that Alisa and her mum would need to take, and so many things could change. The Russians might even close the border. It’s one of the few situations in my life where I just don’t know what to do.”
While Alisa and her mother try to escape, Achkasov’s elderly parents have little choice but to stay in Kharkiv. His 76-year-old father has only recently recovered from Covid, and cannot travel far.
“If food runs out the nearest supermarket said it only has three more days of food left – that choice might be out of their hands,” Achkasov said.
Achkasov doesn’t just feel helpless, he feels angry. He wants to know why NATO didn’t drill Ukrainian soldiers earlier, and why Ukraine is waging the war alone.
“It’s like the police saying they won’t defend your house from a robber because he’s too big, but they’ll give you a baton instead,” he said.
Achkasov is calling on the Home Office and the Scottish government to bring his daughter to safety.
“We need clear guidance on what to do,” he said. “It’s not just me in this position, it’s millions of families.
“I hope we are among the lucky ones where it all works out, because soon there’ll be no Ukraine as we know it.”
The Ferret has contacted the Home Office and the Scottish Government for comment.
Photo: Alex Achkasov