The Ukrainian orphans, proudly wearing the green shirts of their adopted football club, are easy to spot in the crowd.
And that’s a good thing, because as soon as the 56 young people arrive at Legoland, they rush away excitedly in all directions.
The group is based in the UK after leaving war-torn Ukraine on a rescue mission organized by an Edinburgh-based charity.
The orphans and their guardians, who have been in Scotland for four months, are on a sightseeing tour of the UK.
After learning of their plight, Legoland kindly invited the group to a day off at the theme park in Windsor, Berks.
While the others queue for rides, 19-year-old Darina has only one thing on her mind – to win a giant stuffed dog, the basketball game’s grand prize.
Luckily our Ollie, a Sun photographer, scoops the award for Darina.
And when she sees him walking towards her with the dog, she excitedly rushes up to him and says, “Thank you.”
The only time Darina and the dog are apart is when she goes on the Fire And Ice Freefall ride with her friends Katya, 15, and Tonya, 22.
When asked about her verdict on the ride, Tonya says she’s “50/50.”
Darina climbs down and holds her stomach, but is happy.
The young people, aged between one and 22, come from six orphanages in Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth largest city.
Dnipro Kids was founded by fans of Hibernian Football Club after a tie with Dnipro in 2005.
They later registered as a charity and over the years provided clothing, beds, health care and outings.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the threat of missile attacks on Dnipro was looming, so the charity launched a rescue mission.
Dnipro Kids chairman Steven Carr traveled to Ukraine to evacuate the 50 orphans and their guardians.
Dubbed Project Light, the operation was supported by charities Save A Child and Magen David Adom UK
The group spent two weeks in Poland before being given the green light in March to take the youngsters to the UK on a special Virgin Atlantic flight.
Another six orphans were made up for at a later date.
The youngsters live in Scotland and have joined a local school.
They were unable to speak English when they arrived but will have intensive classes over the summer.
Sasha, 12, learned the language quickly.
He says, “I study very hard — I learn English by watching TikTok.”
He adds: “I love it here. It is very nice. I’ve found friends.”
Another Sasha, 16, affectionately known as Big Sasha, is also a fan of his new home.
He says: “I like everything about Britain.”
When asked about Ukraine, he looks sad as he says: “I’m very upset. It’s really bad there. I wish I could help, but I’m too young.”
Big Sasha is a Lego superfan and coming here is a dream come true.
And when he’s told that Legoland is giving every youngster a free Lego gift, his smile fills his whole face.
In recent weeks, the youngsters have also enjoyed days at Harry Potter World, Warwick Castle and Edinburgh Zoo, where they met Princess Anne.
The group can stay in the UK on a three year visa.
Steven says they have signed an agreement with the Ukrainian government to return them as soon as it is safe.
Natalie Radchenko, who works for the charity in Ukraine and came to us with the group, says she is very proud of the youngsters: “They make new friends at school. You will never have just one home. Now they have two homes.”
“Coming to the UK is a new chapter for them”
MY grandfather Morris Malenicky was born in Poland and survived three Nazi concentration camps before arriving in Cumbria as a refugee in 1945.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was heartwarming to hear people asking how they could offer hospitality to war refugees.
However, it was scandalously difficult for these people to get visas back then, so I wanted to find out what was going on.
In March I traveled to the border between Poland and Ukraine.
What I found was this amazing promise shared by the public that it wasn’t extended to Ukrainian people crossing the borders because of our government’s bureaucracy.
I was also made aware of the plight of the Ukrainian orphans.
My job in bringing them home was to bring people together to help these amazing charities get these kids where they needed to go.
I was very moved to hear that they were safe and, like my own grandfather’s story, their arrival in Scotland marks the beginning of a new chapter.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5770104/war-ukraine-orphans-legoland-britain/ From war-torn Ukraine to the colorful playground of Legoland, meet the brave orphans who have made Britain their new home