Carlisle driving lessons helped me flee war danger

Kateryna Karabadzhak next to a fence with pink flowersImage source, Kateryna Karabadzhak
Image caption,

Kateryna Karabadzhak learned to drive in Cumbria

  • Published

A Ukrainian woman who escaped from a war-hit city by car says learning to drive in Cumbria helped her out.

Kateryna Karabadzhak used to work at the Pot Place, a garden centre in Plumpton, but went back to Kharkiv just before Christmas to be near to her soldier husband Igor.

She had to drive away from the city when it came under a renewed attack from Russia.

"It was my first experience of the right-hand side," Ms Karabadzhak said. "I broke a tyre, because the road was awful. When you are in danger, you have to do this."

She drove 150 miles (241km) west to the relative safety of a small town - but continues to worry for husband Igor and her father-in-law, who is also on the front line.

Ms Karabadzhak said her husband had been experiencing nightmares even when he was off in April.

"I think it's difficult for him, because he's a sensitive person. He's brave to be there."

'Fond memories'

Ms Karabadzhak and Paul Thomas, the co-owner of the Pot Place, have kept in touch.

The garden centre has been delivering medical vehicles and supplies to the country since 2022 and recently bought another ambulance to donate.

"We're very pleased now that she managed to master Hardwicke Circus and pass her car test," Mr Thomas said.

Image source, Google
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Kateryna now thinks Hardwicke Circus is "so well organised"

"She used to hate going on Hardwicke Circus when we used to give her driving lessons," he added.

"I said this to her the other day and she said 'Oh, Hardwicke Circus. I have fond memories of it now. It's a wonderful place, so well organised'.

"I said 'I never thought I'd hear you say that.'"

Image source, Paul Thomas
Image caption,

The team handed over two more ambulances in March

Ms Karabadzhak met with the garden centre team once again when they came to Lviv to drop off one of the ambulances.

She said the day had been like a "breath of fresh air".

"We headed west to safety. Our Ukrainian daughter here, she headed east to Kharkiv and back to the problems," Mr Taylor added.

"You can see each other's train, one going one way, one the other.

"We wished really that she was on our train, coming back with us, but really the place she needs to be at the moment is where the family are."

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