I was in Dnipropetrovsk – now called Dnipro – back in 2005 when a group of Hibs fans first visited an orphanage in the city. Shocked by what they saw, they resolved to “adopt” the orphanage in an effort to better the living conditions of the children housed there.
Now, 17 years later, their efforts have truly paid off and are an inspiration to other football supporters groups, both here and abroad.
Referring to their visit to the St Johnstone game, Steve Carr, Dnipro Kids’ chairman, remarked: “The kids seem excited, it means a lot to them; a little bit daunting but it is tremendous to be here today. The supporters have been looking forward to this, everybody involved with Dnipro Kids since it started. It’s probably something we have thought about for a long time but never thought it possible.”
One of the “kids”, Vlad Melinkov, 17, took time to refer to Ukraine’s successful stint at the Eurovision Song Contest when he said: “I watched it on TV and loved it. I didn’t expect to win, I hoped we would be third or fourth, high up the leader board, but not first place.”
It must have been some weekend for young Vlad with Ukraine winning the song contest and Hibs winning the game 4-0. I only hope that someone informed him which was the greater feat.
My Ukrainian relatives have also settled in well and are adapting to life in the city. Enrolled in schools and redoubling their efforts to learn English, they are determined to make the most of their time here.
They still yearn to return to their homeland but are wary of such a venture while their safety in their country could be severely compromised. Hopefully that will be resolved soon.