The Ukraine toddler who asked 'Is the monster coming?' is safe

The Ukraine toddler who asked ‘Is the monster coming?’ is safe – thanks to Mail readers: Leonel, two, was referring to the bombs raining down on his family’s home city of Kharkiv and now he has escaped to Slovakia

  • Leonel and his parents escaped from Ukraine to Slovakia
  • They were welcomed by workers funded with donations from Mail Force 
  • Family were given essential supplies- and a chocolate bar for Leonel
  • Bombs had rained down on their bombarded home city of Kharkiv and they fled 

Safe at last – with thanks to Mail readers – two-year-old Leonel escaped from hell and asked his mother: ‘Is the monster coming?’

The bewildered toddler and his parents crossed from Ukraine into Slovakia yesterday and were welcomed by aid workers funded with donations from Mail Force.

Thanks to our readers’ generosity, they were immediately given essential supplies – and a chocolate bar for Leonel. As the little boy munched on his treat, he seemed to sense the family’s relief to be out of harm’s way.

His mother Olga Legulska answered his question by saying: ‘The monster is not coming any more, sweetheart,’ as she tenderly brushed her fingers through his hair.

She explained that by ‘monster’ he meant the bombs that had rained down on their bombarded home city of Kharkiv. The shocked 30-year-old teacher and her husband Ravil Gaifullin, 31, took their son and a few belongings and set off on an 800-mile journey across Ukraine.

It took them 27 hours by train in a packed carriage to reach the frontier with Slovakia. Last night after crossing over, they were being made comfortable at a reception centre in the border village of Vysne Nemecke.

Sanctuary: Olga Legulska with son Leonel after crossing into Slovakia yesterday

The family is one of thousands to be helped by Eastern European charity People in Need, which is the local partner of CARE International – the UK and global aid organisation receiving £500,000 from Mail Force.

Donations from Mail readers and other benefactors are funding the charity workers who have already set up reception centres and supplies to help desperate Ukrainians as they arrive across the border.

People in Need’s staff and volunteers offer food, blankets, children’s activities and psychological counselling for the mainly women and children who have left everything behind.

Olga told the Mail: ‘Taking into account all the countries that helped us, I think that the people in Britain are our best friends. They are always the first to support us. We are very damaged psychologically because, any noise or sound, we think it is bombs or rockets. 

 ‘It seems to be like a horror movie, to be honest.’

The young family escaped with just two suitcases of their possessions, along with their son’s pushchair.

‘I don’t know what we are going to do,’ Olga says.

‘Thank god that we have some savings.’ Their future remains uncertain. Yet they are already dreaming of when they can return to their besieged and beloved city of Kharkiv. 

‘I hope that we will be able to go back to my city and that our house will still be standing and not in ruins,’ she said. Another refugee in the reception centre yesterday, who gave her name only as Kristina, was offered counselling.

It is here where many Ukrainian mothers can pause for a few hours after fleeing the hell of war. Specialists are on hand to offer ‘psychological first aid’ for those who need it.

Many refugees from the fighting suffer anxiety, depression, or simply struggle to sleep.

 Women and children wait to board an evacuation train in Irpin, Kyiv, fleeing fighting 

Kristina, 29, fled the capital Kyiv with her six-year-old son Artem, but without her husband or father – who stayed behind to defend their homeland from Vladimir Putin’s slowly advancing Red Army. ‘I still don’t want to believe what’s happened,’ she said. ‘It is like a bad dream.’

She watched the ‘total chaos’ of the first explosions in the Ukrainian capital last week.

‘Just five or six hours later, we had all understood that the war had started,’ the corporate HR manager said.

Kristina headed west to Chernivtsi and then onwards to Svalyava before crossing into Slovakia yesterday morning where she was met by People in Need aid workers.

She is defiant that her country will beat Putin and she will be back home soon.

‘I hope that we are only there for one or two weeks. I am already dreaming of going home. I know my country will be beautiful once again.

For details of ways to donate, go to

‘It is our country, and we will never leave it.’ As she spoke her son, a keen mathematician and swimmer, played with a Slovak volunteer. ‘This is the first playground he has seen for eight days,’ she said. ‘He has already made lots of friends.’ The young mother also praised Britain’s contribution to helping Ukraine in its hour of need. ‘Thank you for everything,’ she said.

Her words were echoed by Jan Ciupa, People In Need’s humanitarian coordinator, who praised Mail readers for their generosity, saying: ‘A huge thank you to everyone for their solidarity and support.’

At the request of Lord and Lady Rothermere, the Mail’s parent company DMGT has donated £500,000.

CARE International was founded in the US in 1945 to send packages of food and basic supplies to millions of people in Europe following the devastation of the Second World War.

CARE International UK – the British arm of the organisation – was founded in 1985.

It has teamed up with People in Need, a charity based in the Czech Republic which is also running convoys of aid trucks into war-torn Ukraine.

For details of ways to donate, go to

Additional reporting: Sam Greenhill

Kindness amid the carnage: Britain launches three-year visa scheme for Ukrainian refugees – as Mail readers send donations to our appeal soaring past £3.5million


Britain last night launched a three-year visa scheme to help Ukrainian war refugees.

The terms of the emergency programme were unexpectedly made much more generous just as it went live yesterday.

Those with a family connection to Britain were initially offered a 12-month stay. 

But that has now been tripled – and the criteria widened to ensure more Ukrainians are eligible.

The Home Office expects to process 6,000 applications a week and there is no cap on the overall number who could escape the horrors of Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion.

The money raised by the Mail Force charity – in record-breaking time – has already been put to good use, with mothers and children arriving over the border to Slovakia yesterday greeted by aid workers funded by our generous readers

A house is on fire following shelling on the town of Irpin, 26 kilometres west of Kyiv, on Friday 

Destroyed Russian armored vehicles in the city of Bucha, west of Kyiv, which has been under heavy attack in recent days

A Russian tank in the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, sits abandoned after being attacked by Ukrainian forces

A dog wanders through the wreckages of Russian armoured vehicles left littering the streets of Bucha, near Kyiv

The announcement came as the Daily Mail’s appeal to help desperate refugees passed the £3.5million mark last night – less than a week after the campaign was launched.

Online donations have poured in from generous readers and sacks full of cheques have been accompanied by heartfelt letters recalling the horrors of the Second World War. 

The money raised by the Mail Force charity – in record-breaking time – has already been put to good use, with mothers and children arriving over the border to Slovakia yesterday greeted by aid workers funded by our generous readers.

A Russian armoured vehicle sits on a street of wrecked troop transports after several attacks trying to seize the town of Bucha

At the same time Putin continued his horrific bombardment of Ukraine’s cities, with his bombs pulverising civilian areas. With the evidence of Russian war crimes – and the use of banned munitions – piling up, officers from Scotland Yard began working with the International Criminal Court on an inquiry into the Russian president’s conduct.

In other developments:

  • Seven people were killed, including two children, after a Russian air strike hit a residential area near Kyiv;
  • Mariupol had no water, heat or electricity and was said to be running out of food after coming under a brutal barrage by Russian forces;
  • Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned the days to come were ‘likely to be worse’ – but ruled out a ‘no-fly zone’ over Ukraine;
  • Civilians in Chernihiv described being trapped under relentless shelling;
  • Pictures showed Russia had destroyed one of the world’s biggest planes in an assault on a Ukrainian airfield;
  • Ukraine scuttled its flagship frigate to prevent the Russians seizing it;
  • It was reported that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had ‘survived three assassination attempts;
  • Downing Street said it wanted Putin tried in a war crimes court rather than assassinated;
  • Russia blocked access to Facebook, with the company warning that as a result millions of ordinary Russians would ‘find themselves cut off from reliable information’;
  • Amid criticism of its inaction on oligarchs, the Government put forward a series of amendments to the Economic Crime Bill to hit ‘corrupt elites’;
  • The BBC was forced to abandon reporting from within Russia after Moscow passed draconian new censorship rules;
  • The Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal for Ukraine raised £55million in one day, including donations from the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William;
  • Sainsbury’s became the first supermarket to rebrand its Chicken Kievs as ‘Chicken Kyiv’

It emerged yesterday that at least three senior Russian commanders had been killed in Ukraine already as they were forced to push forward to the front lines in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance. Western officials said they believed it was a sign of Russia’s growing frustration at the stalled advance.

There was outrage yesterday after Russian forces shelled Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in a battle with Ukrainian forces – causing a major fire in its compound. Mr Zelensky branded Putin a ‘nuclear terrorist’ and the US envoy to the UN said the world had ‘by the grace of God, narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe’.

The Ukrainian president yesterday addressed thousands of people protesting against the war in several European cities.

An apartment building damaged following a shelling on the town of Irpin, 26 kilometres west of Kyiv

A school building damaged in yesterday’s shelling in the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, which saw 47 people die, according to local authorities 

Rescuers and locals search through rubble of residential buildings destroyed by Russian shelling in the village of Markhalivka, to the south west of capital city Kyiv

A man stands in front of a residential building damaged in yesterday’s shelling in the city of Chernihiv on March 4 after 47 people died in the city on March 3, according to officials 

‘If we fall, you will fall,’ he told them. ‘And if we win, and I’m sure we’ll win, this will be the victory of the whole democratic world, this will be the victory of our freedom. This will be the victory of light over darkness, of freedom over slavery.

‘And if we win we will become as blossoming as Europe. And Europe will be flourishing more than ever. All of you are Ukrainians today, thank you for this.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday flew to Medyka in Poland, a mile from Ukraine’s western border, and met families who will be among the first to apply to come to the UK. 

Condemning Russia’s ‘cold-blooded’ war, she said: ‘It’s heart-breaking to have met families, women and children forced from their homeland because of the monstrous Russian invasion.

‘Our expanded Ukraine Family Scheme is now fully open and to see the first people who will apply was wonderful.’

Home Office officials are scrambling to ensure accommodation will be in place for arrivals – but final numbers are impossible to predict. A source said 200,000 was an estimate but it was expected that most refugees would want to stay in the region.

Putin: Bombs are fake news… we’ve no ill will 


A delusional Vladimir Putin pleaded against more sanctions yesterday as he tried to claim Russia had ‘no bad intentions’ and that reports of Ukrainian cities being bombed were ‘fakes’.

Despite the horrific destruction wrought by his forces, the Russian president dismissed damning evidence of war crimes by his forces as ‘gross propaganda’.

Instead he tried to encourage other countries to ‘normalise’ relations with his government. But in a sign the West’s moves to isolate Moscow are working, Putin urged against fresh sanctions – claiming they would only exacerbate the situation.

Forty-seven people died on March 3 when Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools and a high-rise apartment building, in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv (pictured on March 4), officials said

A man walks in front of a residential building damaged in yesterday’s shelling in the city of Chernihiv on March 4

His extraordinary claims about the Russian bombing campaign came in a call with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in which Putin said that ‘the alleged ongoing air strikes of Kyiv and other large cities are gross propaganda fakes’.

He also repeated demands for the recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and of the ‘sovereignty’ of separatist territories in eastern Ukraine as conditions for peace talks.

Earlier, the president said: ‘There are no bad intentions towards our neighbours. 

‘And I would also advise them not to escalate the situation, not to introduce any restrictions. We fulfil all our obligations and will continue to fulfil them.’

He added: ‘We do not see any need here to aggravate or worsen our relations. And all our actions, if they arise, they always arise exclusively in response to some unfriendly actions, actions against the Russian Federation.’ 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, said the EU was ready to hit Russia with more curbs, adding: ‘To be very clear, we are ready to take further severe measures if Putin does not stop and reverse the war he has unleashed.’

Ministers have been criticised over the speed of the UK response, but insist the measures are the most swingeing ever imposed by Britain. Yesterday Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK was ‘at the vanguard’ of sanctions on Kremlin-linked money.

Asked why Brussels had sanctioned more individual Russian elites than Britain, he said: ‘The question is not whether it is individuals or companies – it is where the money is flowing.’

Russia has been increasingly waging a war of terror against Ukrainian civilians after attempts to rapidly capture the country failed. Shelling has targeted small villages and towns, such as Markhalivka (pictured)

Separately, he said: ‘These measures… are all aimed at tightening the noose, if you like, and starving off the finance that is going into Putin’s war machine.’ Mr Raab also backed giving over seized Russian oligarch properties in the UK to Ukrainian refugees.

The move has been called for by the Liberal Democrats and Housing Secretary Michael Gove. Mr Raab told LBC radio he would ‘absolutely’ support it, adding: ‘We are looking at everything in the round, it is a team effort across Government… and, of course, the Prime Minister is driving this very hard.’

Staggering generosity of Mail readers moves staff working on Ukraine Appeal to tears as cheques arrive by the sackload


The astounding generosity of Mail readers reduced staff working on our Ukraine Appeal to tears yesterday.

Cheques have arrived by the sackload – and from all across the UK – since the campaign launched last Sunday.

And opening the envelopes yesterday, two Polish-born colleagues in our accounts department were overwhelmed with emotion.

They found many kind-hearted readers sparing whatever they could to help those desperately trying to flee the savagery of Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Sylwia Pazyniak, 26, said: ‘I am so proud of my company and my colleagues and the readers for the help they are giving.

‘We are seeing people dying every day. It’s terrible.’

And Angelika Dawson, 36, added: ‘My family live on the Poland-Ukrainian border and say it is a humanitarian crisis.

So proud: Polish-born Mail accounts worker Sylwia Pazyniak with thousands of donations

‘The pictures of the bombing and the Russian soldiers are so frightening. And the thousands of families fleeing their homes is heart-breaking. But people have responded with such generosity and kindness. I have cried a lot in the last week.’

£2,000 in memory of my grandmother from Ukraine 

Mail Force’s record-breaking Ukraine Appeal has reached the hearts of many across the UK. 

And the Kyral Charitable Trust – founded by Mike and Angela Schumann – is among the generous contributors, donating £2,000.

The trust was set up in 1985 and contributes to about 20 charities a year, among them The Prince’s Trust, British Legion and Salvation Army.

But it was Mr Schumann’s family links to Ukraine that encouraged him to donate Kyral’s largest-ever single contribution to a charity.

Mr Schumann, 80, said: ‘I had a grandmother, Marina Oksiusov, who was born in Mariupol in 1885 and married my grandfather Carl Landsdorff in 1905.’

Marina moved to the UK in 1923 and passed away in 1963 aged 78.

Former engineer Mr Schumann, who has two daughters and five grandchildren, said: ‘I think this appeal is absolutely the right thing to do and I hope the Mail have had lots of contributions.

‘It is going to cost millions to support the children and women affected by this war.

Mrs Schumann, 72, added: ‘This is a great appeal, thank you to the Daily Mail. You always have great appeals.’


It is less than a week since we launched our appeal to help families caught in the Kremlin’s sickening blitzkrieg of Ukraine.

So much devastation has been wrought that already more than a million Ukrainians have fled to neighbouring countries.

In just six days, the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal has raised an astonishing £3.5million to help them, making it the fastest newspaper fundraiser in world history.

But it is not just money that is flooding in, for the cheques arriving at our nerve centre for donations in Leicester are invariably accompanied by messages to tug at the heartstrings.

Many of our readers are from the older generation, and have written eloquently about their memories of war and the chilling lessons from history.

Sylvia Cousins, 81, from Ashford, Kent, sent £50 and wrote: ‘I was born in 1940 at the start of World War Two.

‘My earliest memories are of my mother waking me and carrying me – still in my nightie – down to the local air raid shelter. Of watching my grandmother praying aloud, clutching her rosary.

‘Her prayers were not just for us but her youngest son who later survived D-Day. I hate the thought of today’s children still having memories of war when they are my age.’ 

A lot of the donations come from pensioners offering a fiver or tenner and often a note apologising that they cannot send more. 

Jennifer Hancock, of Coventry, gave £20 and wrote: ‘I am sorry this is not much, but as an OAP being born in the Second World War, this is all I can afford.’

A £30 cheque from Vivienne Card, of Swindon, was accompanied by the poignant note: ‘This terrible situation reminds me of my dad in World War Two when he was a young boy. 

‘My late mother raised funds for aid to Russia when she was young and her brother was on the Russian convoys.

‘I am glad that neither of them are alive to see what has happened to Ukraine and the dreadful aggression of the Russians.

‘It is so sad to see such suffering again.’ Rosemary Barry, of Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, wrote: ‘My partner and I are in our eighties and are horrified at the situation in Ukraine.

‘My late mother helped Hungarian refugees and I lived for two years in the British sector of Berlin in the 1970s. Well done for what the Mail is doing.’

Meanwhile a couple from Nottingham penned a heartfelt letter to the defiant president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky ‘and the whole of the Ukrainian people’. Maureen and John Ward sent a £25 cheque and wrote: ‘We are in awe of their courage and determination to save their country and the world. 

‘Be brave, cry freedom.’ Mrs Ward, 84, added: ‘Please excuse writing and spelling – recovering from a stroke.’ 

And there was a further £50 from Mr and Mrs Jones, of Holywell, Flintshire, Wales, who said it was ‘a small donation for the brave people of Ukraine suffering at the hands of a deranged cowardly monster, happy to send his own people to war. May he rot in hell.’

Details of how to donate to the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal (pictured)

We have had cheques from £5 up to several thousand. Michael and Alison Gaskell, of Colden Common, Hampshire, sent £500, and Christopher Boyce from Newport an incredible £1,000.

Some of the letters are written beautifully and others seem hastily scrawled, but all convey the sense of utter despair at the horrific scenes unfolding in a European country in 2022.

 It seems incomprehensible to so many that the appalling refugee crises of the Second World War in Europe and the Far East could happen again.

A man named Mr Alain, of Guernsey, who with his wife donated £100, recalled how his father fought in Burma with the Chindits – British empire troops who carried out guerrilla-style operations – and wrote: ‘To the Ukrainian people in their fight against the Russians. 

‘In 1940, my mother evacuated with me, aged five months, my brother, 19 months, and grandmother. My father fought in the Chindits.’ 

Alan Jones, of Horley, Surrey, who with his wife donated £200, sent a message supporting the Ukrainian people which read: ‘May they succeed in saving their country.’

On Wednesday, the Duchess of Cornwall gave a ‘substantial’ amount to the Mail’s appeal after meeting British-based Ukrainians. And at the request of Lord and Lady Rothermere, the Mail’s parent company DMGT has donated £500,000. 

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