A British man who has turned his Polish castle into a makeshift hotel for Ukrainian refugees has accused the UK government of showing “no humanity whatsoever” for not allowing a severely autistic teenager to come to live with an approved foster carer in Lancashire.
Pleas are mounting for compassion to be shown to Timothy Tymoshenko, 16, who fled the war in Ukraine without his parents. He is living with his 17-year-old brother, Yurii, in what was once a private palace for the prince-bishop of Wrocław in Piotrowice Nyskie, a tiny Polish village near the Czech border.
Jim Parton, a former stockbroker and writer from London, lives there with his Polish wife, Anna, and their six children, aged seven to 17.
When the Russian invasion began in February, they decided to turn what is usually a guest house and wedding venue into an open house for Ukrainians seeking sanctuary abroad.
They are currently hosting 17 people in the sprawling 700-year-old palace, after four left for Canada on Monday. Among those remaining is Timothy, who is severely autistic, non-verbal and needs strong prescription medication to control his changing moods.
Experienced children’s carers in Lancashire have been to visit the boys in Poland and are willing to take brothers in, but are growing increasingly frustrated that the UK government hasn’t yet granted them visas to enter the country.
Julie Elliot, 61, and her husband, Roger, 66, already have 14 children together – four biological and 10 adopted. Both worked as nurses before becoming full-time carers to their adopted family, and were made MBEs in 2016 for services to children.
Their adopted children, aged between nine and 40, all have disabilities and eight of them still live at the couple’s home in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire.
They and Parton are pleading with the Home Office to let Timothy come to the UK along with his brother. They do not qualify for the Homes for Ukraine scheme as unaccompanied children under 18.
The issue is the subject of a high court challenge and dozens of UK foster carers are anxiously waiting to see if approval is granted for the children they hope to care for to be brought to the UK.
Parton is growing increasingly frustrated with the visa situation. “It’s an absolute disgrace that it is taking so long. There’s no humanity whatsoever from the government in recognising that this is a special case,” he said.
“What makes me most cross is the safeguarding reason for delaying visas for these children,” said Julie Elliot, who recently travelled to Poland to meet Timothy and Yurii and help look after Timothy for a week.
On arrival, she found him to be hungry, unwashed and dehydrated. “Tim needs someone to care for him to ensure he eats and drinks regularly,” she said.
The boys’ mother, Anna, sent the two brothers across the border because Timothy was not coping with the interruption to his routine by having to hurry into underground bomb shelters and was getting very distressed at the sound of the constant warning sirens.
“Tim is in a very unsafe situation,” said Elliot. “We have been through 10 adoption assessments and they are the most frightening thing on God’s earth but they don’t compare with this process of trying to get a visa for Tim. There doesn’t seem to be a system in place. I was told we should hear something about the legal case in 14 days but that is a long time when you’re a child and nobody’s looking after you … All I’m asking for these children like Tim who are waiting to be fostered is just give them a visa, they’re not going to be any trouble to anyone.”
Anna is also frustrated about the delays in granting the visas: “When the generous people of Britain extended a helping hand to my family we cannot grab it because the documents will not be issued. As a mother I am under a lot of stress and want to breathe a sigh of relief that my children are not under shelling and are under supervision of responsible and kind people,” she said.
A government spokesperson said: “It is tragic that children have been caught up in Putin’s war. The safety and wellbeing of children is paramount and it is vital we have robust safeguarding processes. For this reason, only under-18s who are reuniting with a parent or legal guardian in the UK are currently eligible for Homes for Ukraine. We keep eligibility for all schemes under review.”