Along a quaint cobblestone street at the outskirts of the Calton section of Edinburgh, in the heart of lowland Scotland, blue and yellow flowers line the stoop of a small building, gently glowing in the early morning light.
The flowers — accompanied by handwritten cardboard posters, cards, notes and small packages — form a path on the small stoop leading to an ornate white wooden door flanked by two Doric columns.
On the cool, freshly painted black steel of the outer gate, a street sign notifies pedestrians they have left Windsor Street and arrived at the unofficially renamed“Volodymyr Zelensky Street,” a street with one single building — the Consulate of Ukraine.
Zelensky is the president of Ukraine whose actions and courageous stand in the face of the Russian attack have made him recognized throughout the world.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the Consulate of Ukraine in Edinburgh has been coordinating with Ukrainians in war zones to provide information about visas and travel to Scotland, according to Yevhen Mankovskyi, the acting consul of Ukraine in Edinburgh.
It has also been coordinating efforts to provide financial and humanitarian aid to those areas.
But these efforts would not be possible, Mankovskyi said, without the support of Edinburgh Ukrainians and other citizens who have been contributing to charities and humanitarian aid campaigns across the city.
He said Edinburgh Ukrainians “hearts are broken.”
“They are very nervous, scared, but all of them are very joined right now, and they are doing their best to help Ukraine, to provide humanitarian aid for Ukraine,” Mankovskyi said. “All of us believe we will win this war.”
At the Ukrainian Community Center up the hill from the consulate, Carol Watts opened the trunk of her car on Tuesday morning and began to unload wet wipes and nappies — donations to the Community Center to aid its own humanitarian aid donation campaign.
Watts, 59, said she has no personal connection to the war in Ukraine or to the country itself, but she said she felt compelled to donate to the center.
“I just feel I have to do it,” Watts, of Edinburgh, said. “[The war] is very sad, and I need to help.”
Watts knocked on the large, heavy blue doors of the center, waited for a minute, and then returned to her car. It appeared the center was closed and not accepting more donations that day, but after a moment or two, two women — Senia Urquhart and Linda Allison — answered the door.
Urquhart and Allison, both of Edinburgh, volunteer at the Ukrainian Community Center. They said they had to close Tuesday because of a good problem – an influx of donations that needed to be sorted and managed.
“We are totally overwhelmed by the generosity,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart said the center was founded by Ukrainian refugees who took up residence in Edinburgh following bad situations in the past in Ukraine. She said her father and Allison’s migrated to Edinburgh because of “Russian aggression” after World War II.
Allison said the center is currently accepting wipes, nappies, female sanitary items and various medicines, but nothing larger, as the shipping takes too much time.
Allison said the center is also directing people to charities that could accept donations and is lobbying the government to push for visa-free entry into the country for refugees. The center is also advocating for skies to be closed over Ukraine and military assistance to Ukrainian citizens. The center has also appealed to NATO, she said.
Mankovskyi said the consulate is “really grateful” to the Scottish people and United Kingdom for the “support” shown through the gifts.
Once refugees begin arriving in Edinburgh, Allison said the community center will serve as a “really, really important hub” — one she said will aid in “morality” and “spiritual well-being” because of the number of people who understand Ukrainian culture and language.
Citizens in Edinburgh can continue to contribute to the consulate’s and community center’s efforts by following the consulate on Facebook, which Mankovskyi said lists resources and charities accepting donations.
“At the moment, we’re heartbroken for our compatriots over in Ukraine,” Allison said. “When we see what they are going through at the moment, what we are doing is little and not enough and not quick enough, and we wish we could do more.”