Dying grandad who fled Russian invasion forced to sleep on floor because family ‘does not meet council criteria’
A dying grandfather is still sleeping on his daughter’s floor a year after fleeing the Russian invasion in Ukraine after Hounslow council claim the family does not meet the criteria to be housed together.
Petro Khariv’s desperate daughter is begging authorities to rehouse them together so she can care for her father who was given just months to live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
But the council has recommended Petro make a homeless application to obtain sheltered accommodation just with his wife where he could also get health support with wraparound services.
“Traumatised” Petro, 75, and his wife Ulyana Kukhtyak, 73, are still sleeping on the floor of daughter Irina Nowosielska’s house in Hounslow, west London after fleeing western Ukraine as Russian troops advanced.
Irina, an interpreter, who also shares the two-bedroom property with her two daughters, aged 13 and 20, says the cramped conditions are taking their toll on the whole family.
“My parents refuse to take our beds so they are left to sleep on the floor,” she said. “I also work from home and when my clients come, my parents go to sit on the stairs.”
“It’s not right. My father, who is almost blind, is undergoing chemotherapy and my mother has her own health problems including recent heart surgery, so I am their main carer. They need their own space and somewhere they can get proper rest.
“Hounslow Council says it can rehouse us but separately and not together, which would be worse. They don’t speak English.
“They are already traumatised at having to leave Ukraine and are now terrified that we are going to be split up. When I told my mother, she cried and said she would rather they had stayed and died in the war.”
Petro, a retired coach driver, and Ulyana, a former college lecturer, made the harrowing journey of more than 1,000 miles from their home in Berezhany last year.
Prior to war breaking out, Petro, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2021, was undergoing treatment and the outlook was positive, but tragically the delay in treatment means it is now terminal.
Doctors, including Irina’s own GP and Petro’s treatment team at the Royal Marsden, have written to the council in support of the family’s application to move.
Irina, 46, was already on the council waiting list for a bigger property due to various issues including harassment, antisocial behaviour and an incident involving a neighbour’s dog which first attacked her then killed her pet Yorkshire terrier, Toby.
Irina’s lawyers say she has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD, 46, and was forced to leave her role organising charity convoys to Ukraine.
She said: “I am really on the edge. It is awful to watch my family suffer like this, and I ask for help but instead it feels like we have been abandoned.
“I must have sent hundreds of emails to the council, but it is always the same response – they have lost this or forgotten that. I feel like am spending every day fighting them when I should be focusing on my family, but I just don’t know what else to do and time is running out.”
Rory Matheson, a specialist housing and social care solicitor at Osbornes Law who is representing Irina, says Hounslow council is breaching its own housing allocation policy by refusing to place the family together.
He has called for a judicial review of the case if alternative accommodation is not found as a matter of urgency.
“The sad fact is that Petro is dying and needs appropriate housing with his family so that they can continue to care for him and make him as comfortable as possible in his final few months,” he said.
“There are certain circumstances in which tenants may be housed together and given priority, such as if they have health issues, there is overcrowding or exceptional need. This case ticks all of those boxes.
“It is simply unacceptable that it has been allowed to get to this stage, and I urge Hounslow Council to do the decent thing and bring a resolution to this matter as swiftly as possible.”
Councillor Sue Sampson, Cabinet Member for Housing Management and Homelessness at Hounslow Council, said: “With 188 languages spoken in our borough, Hounslow has a proud history of supporting refugees. We are remain side by side – shoulder to shoulder – with the people with Ukraine.
“We deeply sympathise with Petro and his family during this difficult time. However, we recommended that Petro Khariv make a homeless application to obtain sheltered accommodation in Hounslow with his wife, which would have included tailored support for his health condition. Mrs Norwosielska, Petro’s daughter, refused to make an application and would not accept any offers unless it was a four-bedroom property with her parents and her children.
“Hounslow, like many other London boroughs, is facing an acute housing shortage and the current waiting time for a four-bed property is twenty years. Providing everyone with their specific preference of a council home is simply not possible.”