Ukrainian orphan Luda celebrates ten years since her arrival
IT WAS a hard-fought campaign to keep a Ukrainian orphan in the East Riding.
Now, friends and family at the heart of the appeal to keep Luda Balan in the country have celebrated at an anniversary party.
It was ten years this month that Elaine and Jerry Chomyszak were granted guardianship for Luda on a six-month visitors' visa.
It sparked a campaign for permanent residence, driven by the news doctors would not operate on Luda's twisted legs until she gained lifetime citizenship in the UK.
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At a party at the couple's home in Tibthorpe, friends and family who led the campaign met up to toast the milestone.
Mrs Chomyszak said: "It was a lovely atmosphere, with families who we didn't know before the Luda campaign.
"There were even some who regularly sent us cards but who we had never met in person.
"Everyone was commenting on how she has grown up."
Luda, now 12, was found by the couple when they were on a trip delivering aid to children in an orphanage near Kiev. She was bright and alert but her arms and legs were twisted.
In August 2002, Mr and Mrs Chomyszak presented a petition with signatures from 2,000 Mail readers to the Home Office. In October that year, Luda was given permission to stay in the country permanently.
Speaking on her party, the Woldgate Secondary School pupil said: "It was good fun seeing my friends and it was nice to meet people who have helped me stay in the country."
Luda has suffered from arthrogryposis since birth.
The condition is a rare congenital disorder characterised by multiple joint contractures, which can include muscle weakness and fibrosis.
Following several operations and after having splints fitted to her legs, Luda now has some mobility in her feet and hands. They were too damaged to fully repair, so she uses a wheelchair and has regular physiotherapy sessions.
Among the 30 guests at the party was Pat Bastiaanse, 56, of Cottingham, who also suffers from a milder form of arthrogryposis.
She said: "It was a wonderful evening and I'm pretty sure Luda enjoyed it.
"I first met them in Cottingham market after I recognised her from all the media coverage.
"I try to help her and it's nice to get to know someone with the same condition.
"She has certainly grown up a lot and is a typical teenager, 12 years going on 18."