Dnipro Kids: Ukrainian orphans will touch down in UK on Monday after green light from UK Government
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The children, who were helped to safety by the Hibs fans-founded charity Dnipro Kids, have been staying in a hotel near Poznan in Poland since they were forced to flee following the invasion by Putin’s armies. It is their first time outside of Ukraine.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, the SNP’s Ian Blackford called on the Home Office to complete the paperwork needed to bring the children to Scotland and remove the “only obstacle in the way”.
He added that there was a plane “ready and waiting” in Poland to transport the orphans on Friday but he said he feared it would “leave empty”.
Duncan MacRae, media manager at Dnipro Kids, said the charity has “run out of time” for the Friday flight but said the children and their ‘orphanage mums’ are all booked onto a flight on Monday.
“Sorting this out has been a lot of work for people but we’ve done it again and we’re hoping we can get them on the plane on Monday,” he said.
“Ian Blackford has been in contact with Polish and Ukrainian ambassadors and they have given their full support and approval for what we’re trying to do.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel has now confirmed the orphans will be able to come to the UK.
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.
“We are working urgently with Poland to ensure the children’s swift arrival to the UK.”
The group will fly from Warsaw to Stansted on Monday before taking in some sight-seeing in London. They will then travel by train to Edinburgh.
Charity volunteers are hoping that good news will help bring the children more clarity and reassurance about what their future will hold.
Speaking to the Evening News last night from their hotel in Poland, Mr MacRae said: “The kids don't even know yet. We’re going to get them together before breakfast tomorrow morning and tell them the news.
"I think they are going to be excited. It’ll just be a relief to know that they actually have something in arranged in their immediate futures and that it’s organised.”
He added: “We just want to get them settled now. They are very resilient children and they’re always smiling, having a laugh and having a great time playing air hockey and basketball and things like that.
“But there needs to be somewhere for them to go and myself and my colleagues have said it’s very frustrating not to be able to tell the children what’s going to happen and where they’re going to go.
“We just want to get them settled somewhere. They have been through an awful lot and they need this.”
Plans have been made for when the children do eventually get to Scotland, with accommodation and other support already lined up by the charity.
An appeal for help to find accommodation for the groups of children also saw Scots reach out with various places where they could stay.
“People in Scotland are so welcoming and supportive. There has been so much fundraising, donations and sponsors,” said Mr MacRae.
“People are ready and willing to welcome these children in Scotland so we’ve tried to get across to the kids and orphan mums that they’ll be welcome in Scotland.”
And Mr MacRae said landing in Scotland in just a few days’ time will be a “massive relief” for everyone involved.
“It has been a scary experience to say the least,” he said.
“We’ve been supporting these children for 17 years and I’ve been with the charity for eight years.
“I’ve been over five times and they treat me like family and for me they feel like family. So it’s like trying to help and care for other family members.
“There’s still quite a bit of work to be done in the next few days but we’re hopeful we’ll be in Scotland soon.”