Dnipro Kids look back on two years of life in Edinburgh after fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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Ukrainian orphanage families now settled in Edinburgh

When the children of a Ukrainian orphanage supported by a Hibs fans charity since 2005 were under threat in late February 2022 as Russian troops invaded their country, little did they know that they were soon about to embark on a new life 2200 miles away in Edinburgh.

A month after the invasion by Putin’s forces, a group of 50 orphanage parents and children left the Ukrainian city of Dnipro unsure of what the future held for them and arrived in Edinburgh in the second half of April thanks to Hibs supporters charity Dnipro Kids. Two years on, the orphanage children and the parents have settled into life in the Capital, with no sign of the war back home ending anytime soon.

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The charity helped get every child into schools – with extraordinary welcomes from Castleview Primary and Castlebrae Community Campus. Since then, some of the children have joined the school roll at Brunstane Primary and Portobello High. Dnipro Kids also arranged bank accounts and employment for the older members of the orphanage group.

Dnipro Kids chairman Steven Carr with some of the kids in traditional Vyshyvanka shirts.Dnipro Kids chairman Steven Carr with some of the kids in traditional Vyshyvanka shirts.
Dnipro Kids chairman Steven Carr with some of the kids in traditional Vyshyvanka shirts. | SAub

Dnipro Kids was set-up by Hibs fans when their club played a UEFA Cup tie against Dnipropetrovsk in 2005. Some fans took the time out to visit a state orphanage. Moved by what he saw, Steven Carr set-up the charity and is its chairman.

He said: “When our story first hit the news, the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia was in its early full flow.

“In amongst the horrors of this war the Dnipro Kids charity began evacuating 50 orphanage children to Scotland. This unfolding story captured the hearts of the people in this country and beyond, as they followed their journey out of Ukraine, through Poland and eventually to Scotland as the first group of displaced Ukrainians to enter the UK.

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“Since then, we’ve cared for them – we’ve managed to get all the kids into schools, they are all registered with dentists and GPs, many are in college or working, and we continue to support their efforts to integrate. We make sure every kid gets a birthday gift and a Christmas present.

“We organise occasional treats and short-breaks. It has been non-stop, and we’re grateful for the amazing help we’ve had from Edinburgh College, City of Edinburgh Council’s Ukrainian Hub, Perth & Kinross Council, and the many kind donors who have donated so generously to help support our work.

“When they first arrived here they lived in Edinburgh College’s halls of residence. I would be down there day-to-day make sure people got their appointments and what else they needed.

“I can’t fault Edinburgh, the response from people here has been outstanding. Everybody we have worked with has been fantastic and so supportive. It’s been an incredible effort from everyone involved.

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“None of us thought this would last two years. The situation in Ukraine is still uncertain. So we have to just keep on doing what we can to help them here in Edinburgh. When they do go home we will help them re-settle in their home country.”

The Dnipro Kids in Castle Street when they first arrived in Edinburgh in 2022.The Dnipro Kids in Castle Street when they first arrived in Edinburgh in 2022.
The Dnipro Kids in Castle Street when they first arrived in Edinburgh in 2022. | Sub

Four of the six Dnipro Kids families are now in their own homes, two in Craigmillar, and two in Perth. With Dnipro Kids hopeful of finding permanent homes this summer for the two remaining families, who are still staying at Edinburgh College.

Looking back on the last two years, Steven added: “I think the highlight has been seeing these people moving into their own homes in Scotland and creating a new life for themselves here.

“Some of them have really taken to life here and really enjoy it. They are starting to work, make friends, join local churches, being part of their new communities.

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“That’s really satisfying to see, these people building good productive lives here in the city.”

Dnipro Kids chairman Steven Carr and the charity's logo.Dnipro Kids chairman Steven Carr and the charity's logo.
Dnipro Kids chairman Steven Carr and the charity's logo. | Sub

Other highlights listed by Steven include a trip to Hibs’ Easter Road Stadium where they were guests of honour, a trip to London and Harry Potter World, a trip to York and a Christmas show the kids put on the first year they were here.

He added: “They have grown to love Scotland but they didn’t really want to come here. They feared for their lives and more importantly the lives of the kids they care for. Most of them can now speak English, particularly the younger ones.

“It was an act of faith coming here but it’s been rewarded by the people of Edinburgh.”

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The Ukrainian orphanage families have settled well in the Scottish capital, with the charity organising around 200 medical appointments for them since they arrived. Initially Southfield Medical Practice took all the group into their care, and an array of dentists and the children’s dental service has ensured all of the group have now been seen.

The kids got to play on the pitch at half-time at Easter Road in May, 2022. Photo by Alan Rennie.The kids got to play on the pitch at half-time at Easter Road in May, 2022. Photo by Alan Rennie.
The kids got to play on the pitch at half-time at Easter Road in May, 2022. Photo by Alan Rennie.

Speaking about the current picture in Ukraine, Steven added: “It has been estimated that over 12 million Ukrainians have been displaced by war, with an estimated 8 million seeking sanctuary outside Ukraine. Sadly, more will follow.

“There is a real worry that the western support for Ukraine might wane in the face of events elsewhere, and with the prospect of renewed Russian advances becoming a greater reality in the coming months. Ukraine may once again find many of its citizens displaced from their homes.

“When Dnipro Kids started supporting orphanage children back in 2005 the country had many large orphanages, often upwards of 100 children. Thankfully the state started replacing these with the ‘family type’ orphanages that we support today.

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“It is sad that it has become necessary to re-open large orphanages once again, such is the need to provide accommodation for the thousands of orphaned children this war has created.

“We have one or two in the group who know people who have died back home in the war. So it has been traumatic for them. But they are remarkably resilient.

“This is the only group of cared for children that fled Ukraine who are here in the UK. We are all very proud of what has been achieved.

“It’s been an extraordinary journey with amazing people and it does restore your faith in humans, in terms of the welcome they have had in this city.”

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The Dnipro Kids at York on holiday last year.The Dnipro Kids at York on holiday last year.
The Dnipro Kids at York on holiday last year. | Sub

Steven has been blown away by the support Scottish people have shown the Dnipro Kids and he hopes locals continue to support the Ukrainian people.

He said: “We can all help. Please continue to support the charities helping Ukrainians. If you can, then please contact your local MP/MSP and encourage them to continue the support for our Ukrainian friends in their daily struggle. And if they need to escape this horrendous war in Ukraine, lets continue to welcome them.

“It’s gone well beyond Hibs fans helping us now. Hibs supporters have been very generous for years, donating to our cause. But we have also had big donations from Hearts, Aberdeen and Old Firm fans, football fans from clubs all over Scotland.

“It’s also gone beyond football. With many large donations from businesses making a big difference to us. We got financial support from businesses in the city and lots of individuals, all giving a little bit every month. We are so grateful to everybody that has helped us.”

If you can support the work of the charity please click here.

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