A UKRAINIAN family of five who were forced to flee their war-torn home have said they are looking forward to a fresh start in their new haven in Clydebank after an arduous car journey across Europe.

Natalia and Aleks Lutsyk and their boys – Zakhar, nine, Nikita, six and one-year-old Mischa – spent the first six nights of the Russian invasion sleeping on a mattress in the basement of a local sports centre.

They then packed their car with as much as it could carry and left their former life behind.

They headed for western Ukraine into Moldova, and then the Romanian/Hungarian border. After passing checkpoints manned by Ukrainian cops, they made their way to the Czech Republic where they stayed with friends.

But the Lutsyks wanted to get to Scotland because Aleks had fond memories of working in Perth as a fruit picker 15 years ago.

Speaking exclusively to the Post, the couple said when the word of war broke, they couldn’t believe it.

Natalia said: “A friend called and said the Russian is nearby our city. We didn’t believe them.

“We phoned a friend who lived nearby the Ukraine/Russia border, and he said yes, it was true.

“A lot of friends and family got in their cars and drove far away to other cities and even abroad, but we stayed at home.”

The family are from a town just outside Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city behind Kyiv and one that has been subjected to relentless shelling by Russian forces.

Men in Ukraine haven’t been allowed to leave the country and were told they must stay and fight, with Aleks only allowed to leave the country because he is a father to three children.

But he left behind his parents as well as three sisters and three brothers, whom he can only keep in touch with through texts and scarce phone calls.

They were told on July 12 that their UK visas had been granted and set off for Dover, driving through Germany and France and arriving in England on July 17.

The family reached their final destination of the Holiday Inn at Glasgow Airport on July 18 where they have been living until they can move into their new home in Clydebank.

Aleks, who was an engineer who built speedboats back in Ukraine, said he is now keen to find work. 

The couple said they don’t know if they will ever get a chance to return to their lives in Ukraine but they have been made to feel welcome by the local community in West Dunbartonshire.

The family is particularly grateful to staff and volunteers at Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels (OKFP), who opened up their food bank to the Lutsyks to allow them to enjoy some home cooking, meet people in the community and even let the kids watch some Ukrainian cartoons.

Maureen Cummings, founder of OKFP, said it’s the least she can do given what the Ukrainian people have been through.

Clydebank Post: Natalia got the chance to make her family some homemade borschtNatalia got the chance to make her family some homemade borscht

She said: “I tried to put myself in her position [Natalia], to find myself in another country, with three wee boys who just want their mum’s lentil soup or something like that because everything they get here is so foreign to them.”

Maureen and her husband recently sat down with the family for some homemade Ukrainian borscht and revealed that, despite the language barrier, they managed to have a lovely evening.

“The guys managed to have guy talk, and they found the common subject of football,” Maureen added.

“Aleks wants to go to a stadium, so my husband is going to get him tickets for a game at Ibrox.

“Natalia is hopefully going to come to do some volunteering here at the OKFP, which will help her English and build her confidence.”