A BASILDON couple who spent almost 20 years living in Ukraine have finally escaped the war and returned home.

Len Joy, 75, and wife Pat, 73, have returned to Basildon after spending the last 19 years in Ukraine fostering children.

However, they faced a six-week battle and wait to have visa’s accepted to get themselves and foster daughter Varlla, who has learning difficulties, back to the UK.

Despite the battle, their daughter Maria Joy, 42, who already lives in Basildon, said it is a big relief to have them home.

She said: “They arrived a week ago, and have been living with me since Thursday, March 31.

“It is a big relief to have them back here, as it has taken more than six weeks, which is too long.

“Now we are trying to sort where they are going to live, because I only have a three-bedroom house, and with them now here, there is eight of us.

“Because they have been out of the country for 20 years, it isn’t that simple, all we have been offered is three options that don’t work, an elderly shelter, which they can’t for my foster sister, to private rent, or to stay here.

“At least they are safe, but it is still a battle after a battle.”

Unfortunately, not all of Len and Pat’s foster children were able to come with them.

Their foster son was made to stay and fight, and their foster daughter in Slovakia, is attempting to get back to extended family in Canada.

The family were also made to leave their dog behind in the village and since sadly has passed away too.

However, the family hope if war ends soon, and once infrastructure is re-build, they will be able to return to Ukraine.

Len said: “Long term, we need to go back, firstly to sort out the house, if it is still standing, but also Varlla wants to go home too.

“So, we hope to go back as a family in a year or two depending on how long the war continues.

“The battle we faced just to get back to the UK was a nightmare, we were even told to get Varlla a passport we would have to go to Kiev, in the middle of the war.

“But, thankfully we are all alive, as you look at the TV and see the disasters, the devastation, it could have been us, so we are thankful we got out at the time we did.”