Orphans from Ukraine evacuated by Scottish football fan charity to UK | Ukraine
A group of 50 orphans evacuated from Ukraine by a charity set up by Scottish football fans will arrive in the UK on Monday.
After drying the tears of abandoned teddy bears and navigating the demands of international bureaucracy, the children would be “welcomed with open arms”, said Steven Carr, chairman of Edinburgh-based charity Dnipro Kids.
He flew to Ukraine several weeks ago to oversee the evacuation of children, aged 2 to 17, from the city of Dnipro to Poland, where they stayed in a hotel in Poznan and supported by local refugee organizations.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announced last Friday that Ukrainian authorities had confirmed the group would be able to continue their journey to the UK.
Duncan MacRae, media officer for the charity, said the weekend was used to finalize paperwork with the British Embassy team in Warsaw.
Speaking from Poznan, MacRae explained: “It’s a very complex operation and every time you think you’ve sorted things, something else becomes unsorted.”
Children enjoyed the hotel’s playground, he said, and staff had organized other activities such as bowling and watching movies.
The charity started in 2005, when a group of Hibernian FC supporters traveled to Dnipro for a UEFA Cup game and organized a collection for local orphans. Within a year, Dnipro Kids had officially launched in Edinburgh, raising £16,000 in donations from supporters.
Over the next seven years, the charity has supported six ‘orphanages’ – family-type accommodation for children whose parents have died or who are otherwise unable to care for them due to mental illness, physical disability or addiction.
The youngsters remain in good spirits, MacRae said, and find the international media interest in their trip “funny and a little weird”. Their “house mothers” are understandably more anxious: “I don’t think they’ll relax until we’re all on the plane.”
There are plans to keep the group together initially, and they will spend their first weeks in the Scottish countryside near Callander.
The charity arranged for child psychologists and Ukrainian-speaking art therapists to be available once the group reached their temporary sanctuary, while children from a local primary school in Edinburgh created maps explaining how to adapt to life in Scotland.
The group will be joined in the UK by Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, who urged Deputy First Minister Dominic Raab to intervene in their case during last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, accusing the bureaucracy of the Ministry of the Interior to leave them blocked. .
A first group of children and young people made a 13-hour trip on packed trains from central Ukraine to Lviv as the bombardment of their town began two weeks ago, before crossing the border to the Poland. They were then joined by another group which was evacuated by bus.
The children were allowed to take one backpack each, containing valuable clothing, toiletries and toys.
“A little girl had a collection of teddy bears, but she could only bring a small one. She was crying in the night, worried about the other bears. We called a friend still in Dnipro and they went home to pick them up, so now she knows they are safe.