An air hostess waves a Ukrainian flag as orphans board a plane bound for the UK

Orphaned refugees from Ukraine arrive in UK to start new life in Scotland

A planeload of 54 orphaned Ukrainian refugees have touched down in England on a trip to new lives away from the war.

The children cheered and clapped as they landed on a flight at Heathrow Airport in London, before travelling on to Scotland.

Jubilant charity workers gave a warning, however, that while this group is now safe, thousands more are in danger in Ukraine and in countries bordering the war.

“Well, everybody was clapping. First of all they looked out the windows and they could see the lights,” said Sally Becker, founder of the Save A Child charity.

“And I was saying, ‘It’s London, it’s London!’ And they were just looking completely amazed because of course they’ve never flown before, and it really did look like jewels in the night.

“And as it touched down they all started to clap. But not like people clap on an ordinary flight, which sometimes happens – this was 61 of them all clapping and cheering, and they were so happy.

Ms Becker said the children’s safety was paramount.

“But thousands more left behind, I don’t just mean necessarily orphans, although there are orphans, but ordinary children, children who are being shelled, who are being shot at, and I just hope that we’ll be able to help a lot more children.”

The 54 orphanage children, including a 1 and 2 year old, were accompanied on the flight by seven legal guardians.

The operation, a combined effort from charities Magen David Atom UK, Save A Child and Dnipro Kids, saw children rescued from five orphanages in an evacuation called ‘Project Light’.

The group left Warsaw in Poland on Wednesday afternoon on a Virgin Atlantic flight after the evacuation from Ukraine more than a week ago.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted a message of welcome to the children, writing: “A warm welcome to Scotland @DniproKids — I know you’d all rather be at home in Ukraine but you’ll find love, care and support here for as long as you need it.”

Daniel Burger, the chief executive of Magen David Atom UK, said there was “total jubilation, celebration” and described the children’s arrival as a “wonderful, uplifting experience”.

“It’s great. It was a really surreal, fabulous experience which I’m privileged to have been able to play a small part in today,” he said.

The group includes two young women, 19 and 21, who are connected to one of the orphanages.

“Two girls came out as well, who belong to the orphanage, but they weren’t able to come under the banner … they weren’t able to come because one is 19 and one is 21,” Ms Becker said.

“And you can’t be officially part of an orphanage once you reach 18. But for all intents and purposes, those girls see them all as their brothers and sisters.”

Ms Becker said the two young women were in danger of being left behind.

“So we managed quickly last night to find a sponsor in Scotland who was connected to Dnipro Kids, who said ‘You can use me as the sponsor’ and then we asked the British Embassy, the Home Office, to do their best to absolutely pull out all the stops to expedite the visas,” she said.

Permission for the group to fly was granted by the Ukrainian and Polish governments.

Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted about the group’s arrival, thanking her team at the Home Office, the Ukrainian and Polish authorities, the Scottish Government and Virgin Atlantic.

“The care they will receive will go some way to heal their suffering,” she said.

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