Orphans who fled the Ukraine war arrive in Scotland after paperwork issue stalled journey
The children were due to fly to the UK on Monday, but had their journey delayed over a paperwork issue
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A group of orphans fleeing the war in Ukraine have arrived in Scotland.
Charity Dnipro Kids evacuated 52 orphans – who are aged between one and 18 – and their carers from Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion, taking them to Poland where they were staying in a hotel.
They had been due to travel from Warsaw to London earlier this week, and then travel north to Scotland, but their flight was unable to take off after a key piece of paperwork was not provided in time.
Dnipro Kids, founded by Hibs fans, was joined by charity Save A Child which assisted in the rescue effort.
Not all the kids are ‘orphans’ in the conventional sense of being bereaved, but they were being cared for in orphanages.
What did Priti Patel say?
The children’s plight was raised during PMQs by the SNP last week.
The UK Government had not issued visas for the children - none of whom have passports - and claimed more information on safeguarding was needed.
However, on 17 March there was a breakthrough.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the youngsters had been given the green light to travel to Britain.
Following SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s intervention at PMQs, where he said that the “only obstacle” stopping the children coming to the UK was the Home office, Ms Patel announced the breakthrough.
On Thursday, she said: “It is deeply troubling that children from the charity Dnipro Kids have been caught up in Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
“I have been working directly with the Ukrainian government and asked for their permission to bring these children to the UK.
“I am extremely grateful to the authorities in Ukraine, who have now confirmed to me that the children can come here.”
She added: “We are working urgently with Poland to ensure the children’s swift arrival to the UK.”
When did the children arrive in Scotland?
But a Virgin Atlantic charter flight arrived in Heathrow on Wednesday night before the children travelled to Callander, Stirling.
Ian Blackford announced they had arrived in Scotland in the early hours of Thursday morning.
He wrote; “An emotional moment for everyone involved as the@DniproKids finally arrive in Scotland, where they will be safe, secure and well looked-after.”
Shai Weiss, CEO at Virgin Atlantic, added: “All of us at Virgin Atlantic will do whatever we can to support the innocent victims of war in Ukraine.
“We commend our partners, Dnipro Appeal, MDA UK and Save a Child for the incredible work they’re undertaking in bringing these children to safety.
“We will continue to look for ways to use the power of our people and planes to support the humanitarian relief effort in Ukraine and stand ready to act as opportunities arise.”
What will the children do when they get here?
The charity had been supporting six orphanages, and were able to evacuate three of them.
It says it wants to turn the “trauma” they have experienced in their homeland into “an adventure they’ll remember for the rest of their lives”.
Robert Brown of Dnipro Kids – a charity formed by supporters of Edinburgh’s Hibernian FC – said both it and Stirling Council were “committed to giving the children a wonderful time so that they can escape the trauma of what they’ve been through, and we can turn their experience into an adventure they’ll remember for the rest of their lives”.
He contacted Stirling Council last week when it was confirmed the youngsters would be coming to the UK, with the charity working with the local authority to put a “a comprehensive support package” in place.
Work had taken place with local bodies, including NHS Forth Valley and Police Scotland, along with volunteers from local businesses, to ensure a facility in Callander was ready to welcome the youngsters.
Mr Brown said: “The council deserve a lot of credit for this.”
Stirling Council chief executive Carol Beattie said: “Dnipro Kids approached us asking for support and our staff responded quickly to help make sure the children have what they need.
“The suffering faced by innocent families and communities is heart-breaking to witness and we are prepared to do whatever we can to help them.”
“Our first priority will be checking on the health and wellbeing of the young people, and making them feel welcome.
“After that, we have put in arrangements to ensure they are completely integrated into the community, whether that’s going to school or taking part in various activities.
“They will be warmly welcomed into Stirling’s communities where they will find support to get used to their new environment and help getting to know the country that has welcomed them.
“We stand ready to help in Stirling if there’s more we can do for the children.”
‘Russian soldiers attacked a nuclear factory...we realised it’s time to run’
Mum-of-two Natalie Radchenko, 38, has worked for the charity, founded by her mum Irinia, for 17 years.
Natalie made the decision to leave on 6 March and upped sticks two days later.
Despite the turmoil, the children were happy in their new lives in a hotel.
She said: “Russian soldiers attacked a nuclear factory an hour from Dnipro, that’s when we realised it’s time to run.
“When the Russian soldiers went to the nuclear facility that was when we realised we needed to go, on 6 March.
“On 8 March we left the city.
“We left by train, it was two or three people in one bed.
“People were helping us on our escape, during the evacuation.
“They have had the cinema, bowling, they have been to play areas, people are surprised to see happy kids.”
Support people fleeing the devastating conflict in Ukraine: donate to the DEC appeal
Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) charities and their local partners are in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries providing food, water, shelter and medical assistance. Learn more and donate what you can today
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