Two spacious rooms in a sprawling Queensland home furnished with comfortable beds sit empty after the Australian government rejected the visas of a Ukrainian family desperately trying to flee their war-ravaged homeland.
Gold Coast doctors Timur Navruzov and Ines Baptista felt driven to help refugees trying to escape the European conflict after Russia invaded its southern neighbour in February.
The couple found a website dedicated to connecting people with those impacted by the war and met Tetiana ‘Tanya’ Kovalova, 37, and her two children Vlad and Veronica, inviting the trio to come live with them in Queensland.
But despite the doctors helping with their applications and informing Home Affairs they would provide accommodation and cover all expense, the Kovalovas’ learnt two weeks ago their tourist visas had been rejected.
‘I didn’t believe it, in the first place I felt that there was a mistake,’ Dr Navruzov told A Current Affair.
Doctors Timur Navruzov and Ines Baptista (pictured) offered up two rooms in their home for Ukrainian refugees, but the Australian government has rejected their visas
‘They [the Kovalovas’] were just low, you couldn’t see any sort of emotions or any expressions on their faces, they were completely demoralised.’
The Kovalovas live in the port city of Odessa, which has been obliterated over the past month as missiles have rained down on apartment buildings, killing dozens and leaving thousands displaced.
Russian ships have also flocked into the Black Sea, surrounding the city, with Ms Kovalova desperate to find safety with her kids while her husband Oleh, like other Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60, is conscripted to stay and fight.
In preparation for their guests’ arrival, the doctors decked out their two spare rooms – one with a double bed and the other with a set of bunk beds for the teenagers.
For Ms Kovalova, they decorated the room with a colourful elk-themed bed spread and hung an artwork of an iconic Australian mammal – a koala – on the wall.
The children’s beds were adorned with printed doonas and stuffed toys, while a feature wall was dressed with an animated world-map overlaid with animals.
Tetiana ‘Tanya’ Kovalova, 37, is trying to flee Ukraine with her two children, leaving behind husband Oleh at the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. The family is pictured together during happier times
Dr Navruzov, who was born in what is now Uzbekistan, but formerly part of the Soviet Union, can speak Russian, which is a common second language for Ukrainians.
He said his ability to speak in a language the Kovalovas understand would have proved extremely useful in helping them to adjust to the different systems and ways of life Down Under.
Instead, the rooms remain bare and the doctors have been left ‘disheartened’ after learning the government did not accept their offer to accommodate the family.
Dr Navruzov said the department did not provide an explanation for the rejection and the couple are now calling on the government to grant the Kovaslovas’ visa so they can wait out the war in a peaceful country.
‘I think it must be really hard as a mother to make a decision to go to a different country; to live in a house of strangers with your kids and then to be denied that opportunity of safety by the Australian government,’ Dr Baptista said.
A spokesperson for the Home Affairs department said it does not comment on individual cases.
The two bedrooms prepped for the family’s arrival now sit empty after their visas were rejected
Dr Baptista wipes away tears as she stares at the empty bunk beds the couple set up for the teenagers
However, it said it had so far granted 8000 migration and temporary visas to Ukrainians.
‘The Department is seeking to engage directly with applicants and their representatives, as a matter of urgency where we need additional information to finalise applications,’ the spokesperson said.
It is understood the department applies closer scrutiny to cases where financial support is provided by individuals who were not previously known to the applicant.
According to the United Nations, more than 14 million people have fled their homes since Vladmir Putin ordered troops to invade Ukraine four months ago.
Of that figure, more than six million have sought shelter in neighbouring countries, while eight million people are displaced inside the war-ravaged nation.
More than 14 million people have fled Ukraine since the war broke out earlier this yar. Pictured: smoke rises after an explosion of a building in the Luhansk region in May