King Charles has visited Aberdeen to meet refugee families who have settled in the north-east.
The King attended a special reception at the Town House to hear the stories of families from Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine who are now living in the city.
Hundreds of Aberdeen residents lined Union Street, applauding piper Julie Brinklow, of Thistle Piping, in the lead up to the monarch’s arrival.
Charles was greeted by Lord Provost of Aberdeen David Cameron before spending around 15 minutes shaking hands and talking to people in the crowd.
‘Proud to represent my country’
Once inside, he met members of the council’s resettlement team who work to welcome refugees to the city and help them to build a new life.
Among those in the team was Inna Skvortsova, who moved to Aberdeen through a resettlement programme in April and now works full-time assisting the council with the project.
The King spoke to her about the Ukrainian population which has moved to Aberdeen this year.
“I’m really proud to be here,” she said. “It’s such an honour to be invited. Six months ago, I didn’t expect I’d be here meeting the King, but now I’m proud to represent my country. I’m so grateful the UK helped me.
“I’m very happy to be doing what I’m doing now – helping people, my compatriots. My family lives here and I’m happy to start my life here from the very beginning .
“It is safe here. I hope the UK will continue to support Ukraine against the aggression which is torturing my country.”
The 34-year described Aberdeen as her “second home” but she does hope to return to her home country in the future to use the skills she has gained from helping accommodate refugees families.
Hearing family stories
A special reception was held in Town and County Hall where the King spent more than an hour meeting families and individuals who have made Aberdeen their home.
Yar, who left his home in Afghanistan back in March, was among those there with his wife and two of his sons.
He said: “I had a good chat with him, telling my family story. He asked me about my work and where I have come from, and he told me it was good we can have a safe life here.
“Aberdeen has friendly people, good people, it feels like a home. It’s a great opportunity for us to be here among the kind people from the immigration team and the people of the UK, and King Charles.
“They did great for all of us, for all of the people that came from Afghanistan, Syria, from any country that has conflict.”
The 40-year-old, who has six daughters and three sons, said the King asked him about his family, including his new baby grandson, and his work with the British Army back in Afghanistan.
He added: “I’ve got pictures, I’m going to print them out and put them in my house. So, when the kids grow up they’ll know all about it.”
‘Generosity of Aberdeen’
The King also spoke to representatives from organisations in Aberdeen that have helped people to resettle in the city over the past few years.
This included NHS Grampian, the Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership and Aberdeen University, as well as local businesses and hotels.
He was accompanied throughout the visit by Lord Provost David Cameron in his role as lord lieutenant.
He said: “We were greatly honoured to share with King Charles III how we as a city have responded to devastating world events.
“It was especially moving for the King to hear first-hand from some of those who have suffered directly as a result of conflict across the globe; those who have lost their homes and more.
“Thanks to the compassion and generosity of Aberdeen’s organisations and residents, we have been able to extend the steadying and loving hand of friendship in welcoming them to our city.”
‘Very happy here’
Burhan Vesal worked as an interpreter for the British Army before he and his family were forced to leave their home when Kabul fell.
The 34-year-old shared his experience of working in the army during his conversation with the King.
“It’s been an unexpected, wonderful day for us,” he said. “It means a lot. We’re always watching him on the TV and now it’s happened in real life. He heard us with openness, with laughter and with joy.
“We have someone backing us, thinking about how we ran away from conflicts. And now, besides having the support from the community here, we have the support from the King and the government.”
Mr Vesal travelled to the UK with his wife, Narcis Vesal, and their seven-year-old son, Sapehr Besal, and settled in Aberdeen in November last year.
“It’s a very supportive community. Everyone was willing to help, everyone was giving hands.
“We feel blessed to have found good support here. My son has made many friends in school and my family is very happy here.”
To end the visit, Professor Paul Mealor conducted a choir performance of The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, performed by Dyce Primary School and Robert Gordon’s College pupils.
The King also signed the city’s visitors book which was previously signed by his late mother during the opening of the Sailor’s Home extension in Aberdeen in October 1944.