Nottinghamshire paramedic recognised for his efforts to support a Ukrainian family
Paramedic Rob Ferrol holds up his UNISON Branch of the Year Award for going above and beyond in the line of duty.
A paramedic in Nottinghamshire, who has worked at EMAS for 15 years, has been recognised for his efforts to support a Ukrainian family.
Rob Ferrol won an award at the recent UNISON Branch of the Year Awards for going above and beyond in the line of duty after helping give peace of mind to a family in Ukraine by agreeing to host their daughter, helping her escape the ongoing war.
Rob and his family have been hosting children from Ukraine since before the Russian invasion in February 2022, as part of the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline.
This is an initiative to help give youngsters a brief respite from the higher levels of background radiation that people living in the surround region of the former nuclear power plant are still exposed to following the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.
Vlada, 17, is one of these children who stayed with Rob and his family on two separate occasions before having to flee the war. She’s from Irpin in northern Ukraine which came under attack and resulted in their home being completely destroyed by shelling.
Rob said: “We have made many amazing friends over the years hosting children as part of the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline initiative, with many we now consider family, including Vlada.
“After hearing what had happened, I knew I had to help Vlada’s family to successfully get her out of the conflict zone and to safety.
“Both her parents are unable to leave Ukraine due to military commitments which is just an unimaginable position for any parent to be in, so I was more than happy to be able to provide them with the reassurance that their teenage daughter would not have to enter a foreign country alone.”
Rob told Vlada’s parents to start the journey to the Ukrainian border before he jumped onto a plane the very next morning to Warsaw, Poland. On touch down, he hired a car and drove 1,000 miles to reach the Polish/Ukrainian border to pick up Vlada and bring her back to the UK.
Rob said: “The journey took Vlada and her parents two days due to curfew restrictions and travel restrictions and topped off by a 10-hour queue to pass through the border.
“During this time, I ate and slept in my hire car awaiting the family’s arrival. It was an anxious time as I was worried for Vlada and her parents due to the absolutely freezing weather conditions.
“Our beloved Vlada is a second daughter to us and I was so relieved when I saw that she had made it to the border.”
Vlada and her family lived in the countryside just outside of Kyiv when the war began.
She said: “We didn’t think on 24 February 2022 that this was going to be the start of a war. We thought there would be some unrest for a few days and then things would begin to calm down again so we stayed where we were for a little bit as we didn’t want to leave our home.
“Then the explosions started with lots of planes with big lights flying over us constantly. The situation was becoming more scary and violent.
“Kyiv became the epicentre of the war and so we decided to leave and stay with relatives in a more peaceful area outside of the conflict area. It was surreal to experience the quiet after two weeks of hearing explosions every hour or so.
It was while the family were stopping with relatives that Vlada’s home in Kyiv was destroyed and it was decided between Rob and the family that it was in Vlada’s best interests to be evacuated from the conflict.
Rob, Vlada and her family during Rob's previous charity work for Chernobyl Children's Lifeline.
Vlada has now been living with Rob and his family for the past few weeks and is slowly adjusting to living in the UK in the longer term.
She said: “As a family we were really nervous about the journey to the Ukrainian/Polish border.
“There was lots of traffic on the roads and all the cars, including ours, were being constantly stopped at military postings based at every town, village and city across Ukraine.
“It was a really scary journey as we heard explosions all around us and we couldn’t get away very easily if something bad would happen nearby as the roads were totally packed with cars with lots of other people desperate to leave.
“The UK has lots of kind people with very big hearts and I am thankful to Rob, his family and everyone who has helped me since leave my home country.”
Vlada hopes one day that things may return to normal and she hopes to be reunited with her mother who is over in Dublin in a few months’ time.
Both Rob and Vlada remain in contact with Vlada’s parents on a regular basis.