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Ukraine orphans enjoy 'paradise' in Scotland

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"My school is awesome and I am in paradise."

That was the message from seven-year-old Nikita who was one of 50 orphans brought to Scotland from war-hit Ukraine nearly a year ago.

Charity Dnipro Kids, established by fans of Hibernian Football Club, took the youngsters of various ages from orphanages days after the Russian invasion.

Their initial refuge was Poland and once the necessary paperwork was completed they made the long journey to Scotland's capital.

Many months have passed and Ukraine continues fighting its invaders. But for this group of Dnipro children war is at a distance and they are building a new life.

With the help of interpreter Natalie I spoke to some of those children who stepped off a bus onto Scottish soil in March last year.

Nikita is one of 16 Dnipro orphans who attend Castleview Primary school.

Natalie told me: "He [Nikita] told me a few days ago that this school is absolutely awesome in comparison to Ukraine. It is just a paradise, that is what he told me."

The children have made firm friends, bonding through a common love of football, playground games and Lego building.

Classmates of the Ukrainian children have helped them settle, and found out along the way the challenges they faced.

Jubilee, who is friends with Sasha and Losha, said: "I have learned that when they were there [Ukraine] it was a hard time and when they came to Scotland they felt calm and good."

Ola, aged eight, has made many friends since living in Edinburgh. "I like everything about my new school, I like writing, dancing and running around with my friends," she said through her interpreter.

Language barriers remain but teachers and pupils always find a way of communicating.

Castleview Primary School head teacher, Clare Langley, said signing and visuals are useful tools.

She explained: "We started with 19 Dnipro children back in May and three have moved on to high school. So we now have 16 Dnipro children.

"It was a big challenge, there is no denying it, but they've really settled in well."

The Dnipro Kids charity was set up by Hibs FC supporters after a Uefa Cup match in 2005. It raised funds to take the children from orphanages in the city on excursions.

Steven Carr, the charity's chairman, told BBC Scotland that when the war began a year ago they felt they "had to do something for the children".

"Watching what was happening at the time, it just wasn't safe, and it was a real worry for us," he said.

"There was such relief when we actually landed at Heathrow and we knew 'that's it, we are okay, we are safe'."

He said once back in the UK the charity "didn't really have a plan" of what they would do next to help the children, however thanks to lots of support from people in community they have been able to "do what we have to do for these families".

"I am very proud of what the charity has achieved and what the children and the [orphanage] mothers have achieved," he added.

Back in the classroom Ms Langley said that the group had been "welcomed into our Castleview family" and that "we just love everybody and it's really worked".

She added: "They are part of the bricks with every other part of our school. We feel they belong with us and it is lovely."

"They have followed the routines with the other children and it has worked. Where possible we have tried to employ Russian speakers to support them because they are drawn to people who speak the same language, naturally."

While the experience for the Ukrainian children has been a positive one, Ms Langley recognised that they do drift back to the bad things which have happening in their country.

She said it was important that everyone around them acknowledged that Ukraine was still their home and one day they would be able to return without being scared.