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Ukrainian refugees have expressed their gratitude for free English lessons are helping them settle into their new lives in Perth, after fleeing their war-torn home country.
The Ukrainians opened up about how they have found friendship and support at the lessons offered by charity, Esolperth, as well as learning the language.
They say they now feel safe, welcome and comfortable in Scotland, after the horror they fled in Ukraine.
Iryna Shvets, 42, fled from Kyiv in August with her two sons, aged seven and nine, leaving behind her husband, Vasyl, who works for the Ukrainian government.
She told The Courier: “I was at home with my family when the war started, we could hear explosions and we were scared.
“We had to hide in the basement of our house with our children until August.
“When the Russian soldiers were near Kyiv, it was really scary.
“I decided I needed to save my boys lives and get to a safe place.”
The classes have helped Iryna settle into Perth, especially when trying to understand Scottish accents.
She added: “The lessons here have helped me better understand local people, there are so many accents.
“It really helped with my talking, reading isn’t too bad but talking is so much harder.
“Many people support us, the teachers here are really good, everyone really tries to help you.
“I feel very comfortable in Scotland, despite being worried about my country.”
Andrii Khimka, from Lviv, fled Ukraine in March, leaving behind his family, including his brother and father who are soldiers in the Ukrainian army.
The 29-year-old, who had also previously served in the Ukrainian armed forces, arrived in the UK alone.
He said: “One morning I woke up and saw what was happening, I was scared.
“It was terrible.
“I wanted to go to war, I asked my boss from the army but he said we had too many people and I couldn’t go.
“My family have told me not to come back to Ukraine, but to be safe in Scotland.”
Andrii, who has been going to the lessons for two weeks added: “I like learning English and the teacher here is very good.
“My English isn’t good and sometimes I say things wrong, but I really enjoy reading.
“The lessons are helping me speak to other people here, but I still struggle to understand the bus drivers.”
Navid Ulla, 58, is originally from Afghanistan but moved to Ukraine to be with his wife, Yulia, in Odesa, on the south coast of Ukraine.
He and his wife, who suffers mobility issues, arrived here in September.
He said: “My wife and I felt the situation was becoming very dangerous, so we decided to move abroad.
“We were stuck in Odesa for three months and it really wasn’t safe for us.”
Navid also feels Esolperth has supported him as he settles into life in Scotland.
He added: “I’m really happy here, everyone is really kind and the neighbours are supportive. I feel very safe.
“Twenty years ago, when I moved to Ukraine, I learned English but I had forgotten it all.
“The English lessons are very good. The teachers are all happy and really friendly and I enjoy the courses here.
“When I get home, I watch YouTube videos to learn even faster.
“I’m also searching for a job while I’m here. The charity has supported me by helping me try to find one and have sent me training courses.”
Esolperth, which formed in 2015, provides English lessons and support to anyone who needs it.
Linda El-Miligy, English teacher and centre manager, said: “We see a huge difference over time.
“When they first come, they are really traumatised.
“But they make friends here, and they find support here and it’s really good for us to be doing something useful.”
Esolperth have also set up an online crowdfunding campaign which is open to donations to support the lessons.
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