TWO Ukrainian refugees bound for a Hampshire village have been stuck in Poland for seven-weeks due to a Home Office blunder.

Oleksandra Balakina, 23, and her stepbrother Yehor Serpilin, 16, left their home in war-torn Ukraine at the end of March having found a sponsor in Sparsholt under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

They initially expected to be in Poland for a week while they waited for the green light to travel to the UK but have since been met with a wall of silence from government officials.

After sending countless emails and making weekly visits to the visa centre in Rzeszow, Poland, the siblings learnt Yehor had mistakenly been marked as an ‘unaccompanied minor’ and therefore unable to travel, despite Oleksandra being registered as his legal guardian in the application.

Steve Brine MP has said he’s been working ‘tirelessly’ to rectify the issue, but it remains unclear how long it will take before the relevant ministers finalise their decision.

Meanwhile, the siblings are set to move for the fourth time on Saturday having been unable to tie down long-term accommodation due to the uncertainty.

They’ve been supported by Charlie, a Russian speaking fixer from Weeke who is currently carrying out aid work in the country. He lived in Ukraine for several years and has helped the pair with their application. He’s also spearheaded a fundraising campaign to house them while they’re stuck in limbo.

Speaking to the Chronicle, Oleksandra said: “We are so tired. We have moved three times already and we’ve been visiting the visa centre every week. Every day we’re waiting for an email, but it never arrives. We’re told there is a problem, but we don’t get any feedback. Maybe if we did there might be something we could do to help. I just don’t understand. I’m angry about it to be honest.

“We have a lot of bags with us because we thought we might only be in Poland for one week – it’s an uncomfortable way to live. I’m so grateful for the help and financial support we have received because I can’t work in Poland.

“I don’t have a job and my brother doesn’t have the opportunity to study – he didn’t finish school. We’re learning English while we wait but we want to do that in England. We want to study and work so we can be useful to society.”

Their father, Illya, who works at a hospital in Ukraine, was allowed to leave the country on medical grounds as he suffered a heart attack last year. However, he instead decided to stay as he refused to leave his patients behind.

Charlie has said he’s also been in constant contact with Mr Brine in hope of finding a resolution but admitted the situation has been causing him ‘immense stress’.

“Most of my friends in Ukraine are men who won’t leave or can’t leave,” he said.

“So, being able to give them some peace of mind by making sure their family members get to Ukraine was just a small thing which I thought I could do for them. To say it has been frustrating is a huge understatement. To have said to Illya, ‘look I can help you with your children’, and then end up in this situation is tough. I haven’t solved that problem for them.”

Debbie Caldwell, 55, and her husband have been waiting to host Oleksandra and Yehor for several weeks. She said: “It’s just horrendous. All our hands are tied and none of us know what to do. Their bedroom is ready, and it has been for weeks. I often say to my husband, ‘don’t plan too much, they might be here this week’. I’m sure they’re both desperate to move on with their lives but they simply can’t.”

Charlie has helped several other refugees reach Winchester and the surrounding villages – but not without difficulty. Under the current set-up, those who apply for a visa have no direct way of checking the progress and are instead told to contact their local MP.

“This system that has appeared is fundamentally flawed,” he said.

“We’ve seen so many cases where it has taken weeks just to send one email – there is a complete inability to deal with any issues in a timely manner. It’s unfair on the MPs – I’m aware that I’m a thorn in the side of Steve Brine, and there must be a million other thorns in his side too.

“But the result is that he’s a bottleneck in this process. Every email must go through him before coming back the other way again. If we were able to check the application ourselves, we could have solved the problem in 20 minutes because what they’re saying simply isn’t true.

“It has taken so much pushing to even get to this stage. If we had sat back and waited as the hotline had told us, we could have been stuck in the matrix indefinitely - and there must be thousands who have done just that. I fear those people may never get an answer.”

Mr Brine said: “My team and I are working flat out helping constituents who wish to host under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s the bedrock of every MPs work I guess but I’ve never wished I could wave a magic wand to help more than I do right now. We’ve helped so many and I’m quietly going about meeting many of our guests, just to welcome them to our country and see what I can feed back to Ministers about the process.”