Fitness group supporting mum and daughter who fled Ukraine war

A GROUP of Woking mums are using the fitness they have achieved with outdoor training camp Squat2Fit to raise funds for a Ukrainian family who have fled their home in Odessa to find refuge locally.

Squat2Fit are turning their annual family 5K Fun Run and Umbrellathon, on 1 May, into an opportunity to raise funds for the Prykhodko family and are encouraging people to give their support either by taking part or donating money through a JustGiving page they have set up.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE – Squat2Fit are raising funds for the Prykhodko family, Natalia, Sergei and Anna

The group’s founder and trainer, Kim Valente, heard about the family through one of the Squat2Fit mums, whose friend Natasha had given refuge at her home in East Horsley to her sister Natalia and her eight-year-old daughter, Anna, who fled the war in Ukraine. They were forced to leave Natalia’s husband, Sergei, at home in Odessa looking after her elderly parents.

“It’s terrible to think what they must have gone through and I thought it would be good to be able to help just one family,” Kim said. “I know that a lot of help is being given to Ukrainian refugees in Poland and people in Ukraine but it’s good to know that whatever we raise will go directly to this one family.”

The Prykhodko family were awoken by an explosion in the early hours of the morning and they decided that Natalia and Anna would escape and head to their family in England. They left all of their personal belongings behind, travelling through three countries before reaching the UK.

“However, their future is uncertain,” Kim added. “And we feel compelled to help. I understand that Anna is still badly traumatised from the experience and, of course, she doesn’t speak any English.

“They have said they will join us at the Family Run and Umbrellathon and we hope it will cheer them both up to see the support there is for Ukrainians.”

All the money raised through the event is being given to the family. Many people have already tried to help by giving clothes and toys to Anna and items for Natalia.

The Umbrellathon is aimed at adding some additional fun to the event with a carnival theme. People are encouraged to decorate their umbrellas with carnival in mind and carry them on the course, either running or walking.

Natalia and Anna have reached Surrey from Odessa but Sergei remains in Ukraine

Open to all, participants are asked to meet at the bandstand at Woking Park in time for the start of the 5km at 10am.

Only one umbrella can be registered for each family to enter in the competition, any size umbrella is accepted. Prizes are being awarded by a panel of volunteer judges to the top five most creative umbrellas.

Natalia Prykhodko and her daughter Anna left a Ukraine at war for the safety of her sister’s home in East Horsley. Husband Sergei had to stay behind.

They travelled by bus from Odessa through Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria, past checkpoints, border checks and anti-tank spikes, finally boarding a flight to London from Varna, in Bulgaria.

It is a journey neither will forget.

“We left Odessa on March 1, the day after two rockets flew overhead and landed in an estuary about half a mile from our house,” Natalia said.

“We boarded a bus to Varna; it was full of only women and children, most of the children quite small, many of them less than a year old. Plus two cats and a dog coming along with us.

“As the bus left an air-raid siren sounded, and we were stopped and asked to wait. It was scary,  checkpoints everywhere, the road blocked and anti-tank spikes stopping tanks from entering the city.

“I distracted Anna as much as possible, telling stories, joking, trying to turn it into an adventure. But as we drove up to the exit from the city, Anna saw a familiar place and was surprised that trenches were dug, a checkpoint and military equipment in place.

“Very quietly, she asked, ‘Mum, these are ours?’. I said ‘Yes, these are our guys who guard our peaceful sleep.’

“To get to the border in the Odessa region, you have to cross the border of Moldova several times.  At the first crossing, a guy came on to check the bus for men of military age. By that time we’d been driving for about eight hours and were seriously tired.

“When he got on the bus, everyone cried. He had an open, ruddy face, a sweet smile and a machine gun at the ready.

“He told us ‘Girls do not cry, you are now importing the most valuable thing we have – our children. We will win soon and you will return, please don’t cry.’

“This made it calmer, the feeling that we are giving up our homeland disappeared.

“Finally, we crossed the borders of Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria, reaching Varna after more than 30 hours.

“We were tired, scared and the peace of Varna was a contrast to home, although the smell of the sea was the same. There was no war here.

“We were sheltered for two days by an Odessa family who had rented an apartment,  and on 4 March flew to London. For the first time I allowed myself to cry.

 “The first days in England, my daughter and I, without saying a word, twitched and ducked when a plane flew over. Now we are used to it, that the sky above us is peaceful.

“Anna and I really miss her dad. He stayed in Ukraine and every night we pray for him, for my parents, for our soldiers and for the war to end quickly.”

* Donations for the Prykhodko family can be made through justgiving.com, search for Squat2Fit. For more information about the run, visit www.squat2fit.com/squat2fit-family-5k-fun-run

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