Former Ripon student fleeing Ukraine today to set up refugee shelter
Feb 28, 2022
Photo of Lewis Edwards and Tanya
Lewis Edwards and his partner Tanya are fleeing Ukraine. Picture: Tanya Bogdanovoska

As rockets and mortar fire rained down on Kyiv and Russian tanks moved menacingly on the capital’s streets, a former Ripon Grammar School student and his partner, hatched a plan to flee Ukraine and help others seeking sanctuary abroad.

Teachers Lewis Edwards, 33, and Tanya Bogdanovska, 30, arrived in Uzhhorod in the early hours of yesterday morning, after leaving Kyiv on Friday to drive 500 kilometres to the border with Slovakia.

Today they face a long wait to cross into the neighbouring country, where their plans for a shelter that will provide assistance to fellow refugees from Ukraine are starting to take shape.

They have growing support from a team of people that includes doctors and other professionals.

Fundraising and advice

Back home in Ripon, Lewis’s family launched a Go Fund Me page yesterday, which aims to raise an initial £10,000 to get their humanitarian venture off the ground.

At the time of publication, more than £3,000 had been raised.

Advice is being provided by Nicola David, chair of Ripon City of Sanctuary, who has expertise in resettlement programmes from her work with organisations that have assisted Syrian refugees.

She said:

“I was in contact with Lewis yesterday to offer advice on the structures that need to be put into place, both here and in Slovakia, to support the shelter in its work.”

Photo of Lewis and Ali Edwards

Lewis Edwards, with his mother, Ali. Picture: the Edwards family

His mother, Ali, said:

“We have been worrying, as we have witnessed hour by hour coverage of Russia’s invasion and attacks on Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine, while praying that Lewis and Tanya will get out safely.

“I’m very proud of them for the way that they always think about others and hope that people in Ripon and further afield will give their financial support at this desperate time for the people of Ukraine.”

The horror in Ukraine

Last night, Lewis told the Stray Ferret about the horror of seeing his adopted country invaded by Russia.

He said:

“A week ago, Tanya and I were teaching children at a private secondary school in Kyiv and on Thursday, our lives were turned upside down as the first rockets and mortars were fired at Ukraine and the invasion began.

“We sought safety in the shelter of an underground metro station, but could hear explosions above and when we emerged we discovered that residential blocks, schools, hospitals and nurseries in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine had been indiscriminately attacked by the Russians.

“Then came a terrifying moment as we walked along the street and heard the sound of a gun being cocked. We didn’t know if we were the target, all we could do was hope and fortunately we survived.”

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He added:

“We have seen some surreal sights in Kyiv and on our journey to the border, including old ladies with machine guns, who are ready to fight for their country street by street

“People are making Molotov cocktails to throw at tanks and changing road signs to confuse the Russian invaders. One side read: ‘Russians turn left and up your own ar**’

“It’s clear to us that Putin has made a complete misjudgement, thinking that Ukraine’s military would surrender, but the soldiers, airmen and citizens are ready to fight to the last.

“Tanya and I just hope that further practical aid will be provided by NATO as soon as possible.”