Michael Marley went from Ardrossan to Odessa on a long-range mission he called “Operation Family Freedom” that lasted 10 days
Image: Copyright Mark Anderson)
A determined war veteran drove more than 3,000 miles on an epic journey to save his pregnant daughter-in-law from invading Russian forces in Ukraine.
Michael Marley traveled from Ardrossan, Scotland to Odessa on a mission he dubbed Operation Family Freedom.
The operation took just two hours to plan but 10 days to complete in his Peugeot 308 alongside Ukrainian wife Oksana, reports said the daily record.
Together they made their way through France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania – sleeping in the car along the way – to rescue Anna Chichur, who was stranded in the village of Orlivka near the Russian-attacked town.
Michael said: “We felt very helpless sitting at home and I decided we had to do something.”
Anna, 33, whose baby is due in July, had left her husband and home in a desperate attempt to escape.
copyright Mark Anderson)
They also brought back Anna’s six-year-old son Leo, but left Anna’s husband – Oksana’s son – who stayed behind to fight.
Michael and Oksana spent three days on the road across Europe, sleeping in parking lots and taking turns driving, stopping at gas stations for food and water.
After an emotional reunion with Anna and Leo, they made their way to the Romanian border, crossing the Danube by ferry on their way back to Scotland.
The four stopped in Paris, where they had to wait six days at a special refugee center for a visa before heading over the Channel Tunnel and back to Scotland.
Michael, a fire safety adviser who has served in the Queen’s Own Highlanders for 20 years, including tours of duty in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia, said it was his biggest challenge.
Oksana had visited Odessa on February 25, the day after the Russian invasion, to see her son and daughter-in-law.
But she had to return to Scotland three days later, leaving them both behind.
Michael said: “We were really concerned for her safety, especially as Anna is pregnant and due in July.
“On March 7th I just decided that we have to go back there and get Anna and Leo safe.
“We jumped in the car and drove straight to Ukraine.
“All we had were our passports and credit cards. We bought all the clothes we needed on the way. It took us three days to come to Ukraine and pick up Anna and Leo.
“It was a very emotional reunion.
“My wife’s son had to stay behind in Odessa because of martial law.
“We then made our way to Paris where we went through the visa application process.
“Finally, we returned to Ardrossan three weeks ago on March 19.”
The couple drove almost non-stop from Scotland to Ukraine via the various motorway networks and their sat nav.
Oksana added: “We would park behind gas stations and just sleep in the car to save time and money.
“We never slept more than a few hours at a time. We just wanted to get Anna and Leo to safety as soon as possible.
“We knew the situation was getting worse by the hour.”
Michael said: “We found a two star hotel close to the UK visa center which was very expensive.
“Despite the time we spent there, we found that if you follow the established processes, the system works. Now that we’re home in Ardrossan, we’re teaching Anna and Leo the Scottish way and we’ll no doubt have a few more hurdles to overcome.”
Anna was a fitness trainer in Odessa and is preparing for the arrival of her second child, while Leo is due to go to school in Ardrossan.
Michael said Leo’s father is safe and hopes to be part of the family soon.
Russian forces have been described as retreating towards eastern Ukraine but are still targeting the historic city of Odessa, which sits on the Black Sea and is home to more than a million people.
Security precautions were tightened there at the weekend and a curfew was imposed due to the risk of a rocket attack.
Oksana said the past few weeks have been difficult for Anna as she has no money with her and speaks very little English.
She added: “I think the authorities need to do more to help people financially when they come here from Ukraine.
“Fortunately, since we both work, we can help her, but we’d have trouble helping her otherwise.”
Michael and Oksana spoke about saving their families at a special Day of Action for Ukraine in Glasgow’s George Square, which drew several hundred people.
Organizers said the event was designed to celebrate Ukrainian culture and show solidarity with refugees who have escaped Ukraine’s conflict and other war zones to come to Scotland.
A spokeswoman said: “Our message is that all refugees are welcome here.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/war-veteran-drove-3000-miles-26677895 War veteran drove 3000 miles to rescue pregnant daughter-in-law from Ukraine