Three generations of Ukrainian family and their dog welcomed to South Shields as part of Mad Foundation's Operation Safe Drop

The granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor is helping modern-day victims of aggression as a family welcomes three generations of a Ukrainians and their dog to South Shields, with the help of a local charity.

Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 11:16 am

Yuliya, her teenage daughter Ksenia, her mother Olga and dog Nika, arrived in South Shields at the weekend after escaping war-torn Ukraine, with the help of charity the Mad Foundation.

They are being sponsored by couple Sarah and Chris Martin.

Sarah and Chris, who live in Hexham, have given Yuliya, Kesnia, Olga and Nika the keys to a family home in South Shields and were keen to do anything they could to help after watching the horrifying scenes unfold in Ukraine.

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Olga, daughter Yuliya, grand-daughter Ksenia and dog Nika

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As well as helping with travel out of Ukraine, the MAD Foundation assisted the family, matching them to a host family in the North East and has ensured they were housed safely whilst the visa application was processed.

Sarah Martin is the granddaughter of holocaust survivor, the late Edith Askew, who came to South Shields from Vienna in the aftermath of the Second World War, and Edith’s father, Sarah’s great-grandfather, was born in Ukraine.

Sarah said: “I was shocked to watch the horrors unfolding in Ukraine and as it became clear that refugees would seek sanctuary in the UK there was no question about doing everything I could to help.

Chris and Sarah Martin

“People of the North East are famous for their hospitality and charity, speaking with friends and colleagues there is an overwhelming desire to help Ukrainians, but many are uncertain of how best to help”

Husband and wife John Lawler and Kari Anderson of the Mad Foundation were behind launching the ‘Operation Safe Drop’, which is working with local Ukrainian charities to get people out of the country.

Speaking through an interpreter Yuliya said: “John and Kari have treated us very well. They have done a lot for us. We are so thankful to Sarah and her family who have sponsored us through the visa process and are providing us with a lovely house in South Shields.

"They wrote to us often asking how we are. We are overwhelmed to have met them and at the kindness they have shown us.”

Cllr Jim Foreman, lead member for Housing and Transport on South Tyneside Council, said: “We’d like to offer Yuliya, Ksenia and Olga a very warm welcome.

“We have a fantastic community here in South Tyneside and I am confident that Yuliya and her family will be embraced with kindness, generosity and hospitality and made to feel at home.

“As with all people seeking shelter in the borough, we as a council stand ready to offer support and resources to ensure a smooth transition and help the family feel safe and settled as quickly as possible.”

John Lawler said “It’s great to get our first family safely across to the North East. They will be safe now housed in South Shields until it is safe to return to the Ukraine. We have been concentrating our efforts on those that need the most help.

“Whilst the UK offer to Ukrainian families is good – access to the NHS, the freedom to work and a right to stay three years – the visa system is still too slow.

“They escaped with nothing, and we have had to assist them by renting a room in a small hotel/ hostel whilst awaiting the visa. This cost is pushed onto charities like ours – I’d like to thank everyone who has donated to the MAD Foundation’s Operation Safe Drop.

“It is very difficult out here and it really is a race against time getting families matched and to safety. We have had some incredible offers of help, but we are urging everyone to do what they can to help us get these desperate people, who have travelled many miles in horrendous conditions to escape the war, to families who are only too willing to take them.

“We are also looking for more families to come forward and offer Ukrainian refugees’ sanctuary and we will do our utmost to support the process.”

Normally the MAD Foundation runs overseas development projects and helps volunteers link to those projects around the world, but the war has prompted an emergency response and it is appealing for more funds to help.

More information can be found about the charity at

A JustGiving page has so far raised just over £40,000 to help fund the MAD Foundation's Operation Safe Drop.