TORN apart from her family by war, Ukrainian refugee Tetiana Lukianenko still feels she is the lucky one.

She worries over the relatives and friends she has left behind but is thankful she has escaped with her one-year-old son, Mark, and is living safely in Highland Perthshire.

Tetiana was the first refugee to arrive in Aberfeldy after the entire town pulled together in an incredible community effort which has settled 70 people fleeing Ukraine since Russia began its illegal invasion on February 24 last year.

Not only did the community band together to form a “chain of trust” to match refugees safely with host families in Aberfeldy and surrounding towns like Pitlochry and Birnam, they also fundraised to support them in Poland for weeks until their visas were granted by the UK Home Office, then paid for their flights to Scotland.

Once here, the refugees, some of whom fled with no more than a backpack of belongings, were provided with everything they needed from clothes, toys, school uniforms and laptops to bicycles and scooters to help them get around the rural area.

A transport team was organised to drive the newcomers longer distances, while 450 hours of English tuition have been provided free to help them integrate and find work.

Now 21 children are attending local schools, many adults are working in shops and hospitality while others are improving their English still further at college in order to find work in their original professions like law and accountancy.

Although they are settled, all of them begin the day checking with loved ones in Ukraine to make sure they are still safe, according to Tetiana.

The first anniversary of the Russian invasion 

Friday, the anniversary of the invasion, was a “difficult day” for all of them.

“We did not mark it because we have nothing to celebrate and we are all worried about our families,” she said. “It is stressful. It is not easy for anyone but we are the lucky ones who get all the possible support here. I would say we are the luckiest to end up in Aberfeldy with the whole community standing up for us and helping us settle.

“It is unbelievable how the community got together because everybody tries to help in any way they can. If we need to go to Perth or Edinburgh they will help, and as well as providing English lessons they have helped with writing CVs and looking for jobs. We have had support in every aspect of life.

“When we see such people we really believe there is a lot of good in the world and that we do have a future having people like this.”

As Tetiana is bilingual, she has played a huge role in helping others to come over and worked with Lindy Lumsden, from Aberfeldy, on the visa team.

Lumsden said the initiative began when local hotelier Gavin Price tweeted he wanted to bring a couple of refugees to Aberfeldy and house them in his staff quarters.

“The next thing we knew 60 or 70 people said they would have them as well and it just became a huge thing,” said Lindy.

Tetiana helped initially from Poland, where she had fled when the invasion began, and they also worked with local Duncan Spinner who had been based in Ukraine and was able to help with the matchmaking process. It meant the team had a good knowledge of the families they were trying to help.

“We also knew the host families so our chain of trust was a good way to bring people over,” said Lindy.

“From the moment they said they wanted to come and were matched, we did everything so they did not have to think about anything when they arrived.

"We had a team that worked with them, finding jobs and doing CVs so everything was covered because the whole idea of bringing people here was to give them a safe landing pad where could get English lessons and some normality to give them time to think about what to do next and then help them do it.”

She said as the majority had no English to begin with, the team and host families got by with Google translate.

“We realised the most important way to get people independent, working and living in their own place was to help them learn English so we got together with local charity Crossing Borders who put together a team that has so far supplied over 450 hours of English lessons.”

While the level of organisation is impressive, it was not always plain sailing.

“There were things we did not think about and something out of the ordinary would happen and we would have to deal with it, so it has not always been easy but everybody has been so supportive,” said Lindy.

“It really did take a whole town to take them in and help them settle.”