Nicola Sturgeon pledges Ukrainian orphans will find ‘love, care and support’

The Scottish First Minister tweeted a welcome greeting to the youngsters, who arrived in Scotland early on Thursday.

24 March 2022

A group of Ukrainian orphans will find “love, care and support” in Scotland after fleeing the war in their homeland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Ms Sturgeon welcomed the 54 children and young people, who have been taken out of Ukraine by the charity, Dnipro Kids.

They arrived in Scotland in the early hours of Thursday morning, after their plane left Poland on Wednesday evening.

It had been hoped to bring the youngsters and their orphanage carers to the UK on Monday, but problems with paperwork meant the journey was delayed.

Dnipro Kids chairman, Steven Carr, said they were all “pretty tired but obviously ecstatic we’ve managed to get this over the line”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme he added: “They’re finally here, I can relax now.”

After they arrived in Scotland, where the children will spend time in the rural setting of Callander, near Stirling, before moving to Edinburgh – the First Minister tweeted a welcome greeting.

She said: “A warm welcome to Scotland @DniproKids.

“I know you’d all rather be at home in Ukraine but you’ll find love, care and support here for as long as you need it.”

Poland Russia Ukraine War
Ukrainian orphans wait for a flight to the United Kingdom at Chopin airport, in Warsaw, Poland (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Mr Carr said there had been “lots of those moments when we doubted this might happen”.

He added: “It’s been a journey of ups and downs, but I think every time we had that situation where we felt ‘it’s not going to happen’, somebody stepped up and moved us on to the next stage.”

But he said Dnipro Kids, which was founded by fans of Edinburgh’s Hibernian FC, had a “fantastic committee” which had been “working non-stop to make sure everything is in place for the kids when they arrive”.

After Monday’s flight was cancelled, he said “I don’t think I have ever felt so deflated after a situation” but added it was “just great to finally get over the line”.

The youngsters are feeling “relief” after arriving in Scotland, he said, adding: “They are no longer in limbo, they can settle down, get themselves adjusted.”

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Sally Becker, founder of Save A Child (Steve Parsons/PA)

The orphans had earlier clapped and cheered as their plane touched down in the UK.

They landed at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday night, before travelling north to Scotland

Sally Becker, of the Save a Child organisation, which was also involved in the mission to bring the youngsters to the safety of the UK, was on the plane with them and and reflected on the moment it touched down in London.

She told the PA news agency: “Everybody was clapping. First of all they looked out the windows and they could see the lights.

“And I was saying, ‘It’s London” It’s London!’ And they were just looking completely amazed because, of course, they’ve never flown before, and it really did look like jewels in the night.

“And as it touched down they all started to clap. But not like people clap on an ordinary flight which sometimes happens, this was 61 of them all clapping and cheering, and they were so happy.”

Ms Becker added: “The main thing is they’re here, they have sanctuary, temporary sanctuary and they’re safe.

“But thousands more are left behind, I don’t just mean necessarily orphans, although there are orphans, but ordinary children, children who are being shelled, who are being shot at, and I just hope that we’ll be able to help a lot more children.”

Ms Becker said the group of 54 includes two young women: a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old, who are connected to one of the orphanages.

“Two girls came out as well, who belong to the orphanage, but they weren’t able to come under the banner. They weren’t able to come because one is 19 and one is 21.

“And you can’t be officially part of an orphanage once you reach 18. But for all intents and purposes, those girls see them all as their brothers and sisters.

“And the mother of the orphanage, the guardian, she calls herself mother, and they were going to be left behind.

“So we managed quickly, last night, to find a sponsor in Scotland who was connected to Dnipro Kids who said, ‘You can use me as the sponsor’ and then we asked the British Embassy, the Home Office, to do their best to absolutely pull out all the stops to expedite the visas.

“They said, ‘we don’t know if we can do it in time for the flight’,” she said.

Ms Becker said the visas were indeed sorted on time, adding: “I don’t know how the British Embassy did it but they did.”

Permission for the group to fly was granted by the Ukrainian and Polish governments.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, tweeted about the group’s arrival, thanking her team at the Home Office, the Ukrainian and Polish authorities, the Scottish Government and Virgin Atlantic.

“The care they will receive will go some way to heal their suffering,” she said.

SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, who had raised the youngsters’ plight in the House of Commons, said it was a “deeply emotional moment for everyone involved as the Dnipro Kids finally arrive in Scotland, where they will be safe, secure and well looked-after”.

He added: “As delighted as I am to see them reach sanctuary in Scotland, we all hope that this will be a temporary stay, and that peace will soon come to Ukraine so they can safely return as they wish.”

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