Dozens of Ukrainian orphans who were rescued by a charity set-up by Hibs fans after fleeing their war-torn country will be welcomed as guests of honour at Easter Road this weekend.
Fifty children who were rescued by Dnipro Kids are to to be greeted by thousands on Sunday as they visit Hibernian’s stadium for the first time to see them kick off against St Johnstone.
Steven Carr, chairman of the Edinburgh -based charity, said: “It’ll be a special day. They’ll be guests of honour.
“They’re going to the football club where this all started. I’ve talked about Hibs to them for many, many years as we’ve been going out and doing the things we do,” said the 56-year-old.
“It’s a big thing for them and its a huge thing for the supporters to be able to welcome them to the football club.”
“This is really about the supporters to say this is what you’ve done and it’ thanks to you, the supporters, that these children are all safe,” he said.
“Its a welcome from the supporters and a thank you to everybody that’s helped us.”
The charity was set up by Hibbs supporters after a tie with Dnipro in 2005.
A handful of fans organised a collection for orphans in the city, and after the trip support for the good cause increased and it was eventually registered as a charity.
Over the years, Dnipro Kids has helped provide healthcare, clothing, beds and other essentials to orphans in the city.
When Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to try and storm the country, the youngsters faced a harrowing journey to escape from the city on the Dnieper River in central Ukraine.
They faced constant shelling and aerial bombardments on their way out of the country, and then became embroiled in a red-tape wrangle in Poland.
But in March the children, rescued from different orphanages in the area, finally landed in London and made their way north.
And since their arrival in Scotland they have been enrolled in school and have been settling into their new lives more than 2,000 miles away from their native city.
“The language situation is obviously a little frustrating but they’re getting English classes and they’ve all started school now,” said Mr Carr.
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“And I think once you start school kids that age will pick up English quicker than I managed to pick up my Russian, that’s for sure.
“They’re in school now, they’ll start picking things up and everybody is here to welcome them,” the alarm security specialist added.
“I don’t think they’ll be any problems with them making friends at school. I think everybody will be going out of their way to make them feel welcome and part of the community.”
St Johnstone face a fight for survival, and on Sunday Mr Carr said he expects a goalless game.
“But you never know,” he said. “Fingers crossed its a special day for them.
“Obviously the team we’re playing has got a lot at stake because they could potentially be relegated if they don’t win so I suspect they’ll be ensuring that they don’t get beaten.”
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