When Sam Minkovski, her husband and two children got on a flight to North Macedonia at the beginning of the month, they had no idea they would end up stranded in a small one-bedroom apartment surrounded by snow for weeks.

The family – who live in Birkirkara – took the trip to introduce their eight-week-old son to his grandparents. But while they were holidaying by Lake Ohrid, they heard the army was coming to lock down the area as a case of coronavirus had been detected.

“We were shocked to find out that the virus had got to such a remote area. We had to quickly jump in the car and drive for hours through heavy snow as we didn’t want to be stuck there.

“Thankfully, my husband’s family were kind enough to give us an apartment where we have been able to stay for free, while we wait to hear from Malta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Sam said.

Sam is originally from the UK, while her husband is from North Macedonia, but both are residents in Malta. They are among around 80 people awaiting repatriation to Malta, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A spokesperson said its situation centre is “constantly (24/7) taking calls and emails” from those in a similar situation.

Sam says she has spoken to seven different people at the ministry who have taken her details, but is still waiting for further instructions or information.

“When our flight was cancelled on March 14, we were told to travel to the nearest country that wasn’t under lockdown and get home from there.

“So we booked a flight from Serbia but by the time it came to getting it, all countries were blocked from entering Malta.”

My son has grown out of the clothes that we brought with us more than three weeks ago

More than a week later and the family have still been unable to get a flight and the situation is particularly challenging with a small baby.

“My son has grown out of the clothes that we brought with us more than three weeks ago.

“It’s also hard to find formula so I’m trying to keep my breast milk supply up as much as possible. He has now missed some of his immunisation appointments at the hospital, which also makes me anxious,” Sam said.

She says the village where she is staying is keeping strict rules when it comes to leaving the house.

“There is a curfew from 9pm to 6am for everyone. The elderly are allowed out from 5am to 11am and then everyone else is allowed out from 11am to 5pm.

“It hasn’t stopped snowing for the last 24 hours so that’s been tough. We only brought one suitcase with us, so I have very few toys to entertain my five-year-old son. But we’re doing our best to home-school him and keep a structure.”

Like many, Sam is also concerned about the financial ramifications brought on by the pandemic as they begin to run low on funds. She says that even if she does get a date from a flight back to Malta, she’s worried about the flight.

“We have no symptoms and have been self-isolating but I would still have this war in my head, is it ultimately safer to keep my family here or risk travelling with someone who has the virus?” she said.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us
a