Ukrainian Linlithgow dentist calls on council to house refugees at the Low Port Centre

A Ukrainian dentist who lives and works in Linlithgow is calling on West Lothian Council to use the Low Port Centre to house 15 families fleeing the horrors she hears about everyday from family and friends trapped in her homeland.

By Kevin Quinn
Wednesday, 16th March 2022, 3:10 pm
The family pictured together in Ukraine during happier times.

The former outdoor activities and residential centre has been closed since June last year, with some local groups previously expressing an interest in taking on the mothballed facility.

Anastasia Martin (42) was approached about the idea by one of her patients at Divine Dental on Linlithgow High Street, where she has worked since 2009.

She said: “Gavin Cargill suggested using the Low Port Centre and he has spoken to someone at the council.

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Front row (LtoR) In the buggy is Anastasia's one year old niece Maria, her sister Anna, son Gregor, her mother Luda, Anastasia, her niece Tatiana, uncle Vareriy. Top row: Anastasia's brother in laws Yuriy and dad Viktor.

"They have said there are 15 rooms, but we need to organise everything and fund it. The community council is also backing this idea.

"It’s still very early days though, we are waiting on more information. There have been some positive movements with people getting Visas for the UK but we need more support.

"The Low Port Centre is a great idea. The council gets money to educate Ukrainian children so if we have families at Low Port they should hopefully be able to go to local schools and settle in.

"I have been touched by the support our country has been given. All my friends, neighbours, everyone at work, have all been very supportive, with some offering spare rooms for anyone I know coming to the UK.”

The Low Port Centre in Linlithgow, which currently lies empty.

A spokesperson for West Lothian Council said: “It is heartening that so many people in West Lothian want to help those affected by the tragic events in Ukraine and West Lothian Council stands by to welcome our share of any refugees from Ukraine who come to Scotland.

“Presently we do not know how many people will come to West Lothian, what their individual needs will be or how long they will need to stay for, so it is important not to make assumptions on what venues or locations are suitable at this stage. We can provide assurances that all options are being considered.

“We have been provided with no further details on funding or education provision.”

Anastasia’s parents Luda (69) and Viktor (76) live in their summer home in a village north of Kiev after they fled the capital at the start of the conflict in a vain attempt to escape any serious fighting. She last saw them in January when she returned home for New Year.

She said: "I have my mum and dad near Chernihiv, which has been bombed daily since the start. They can not escape the area. It’s constantly being shelled.

"They basically have to hide in the cellar. Houses in the village have been bombed. Someone delivering bread to the village got wounded.

"All the villages there are cut off now. You can’t travel around, it’s not safe. It’s just a case of hiding in the cellar. But they are cold. There is no electricity or running water.

"I can hear bombs blowing up when we are on a call. I fear each time that I dial the phone that they will not answer. I would love for them to get out but it’s impossible to escape now.

"It’s been getting worse and worse there recently. My whole family were in Kiev but they fled at the start to the summer house, as they thought it would be safer outside the city but it’s not safe anywhere anymore.

"Civilians are being attacked, hospitals are being attacked, schools are being attacked, bridges blown up.

"It’s absolutely horrifying now because I don’t see an end to this.”

Anastasia, who was actually born in Russia but grew up in Crimea, also spoke about her friends who fled Kiev by train and took two days to make an eight hour journey as the train was attacked. Thankfully they escaped.

She added: "All of my friends and all of my family have been affected and are currently hiding somewhere.

"What’s going on in Ukraine is genocide at the moment. The type of weapons they use, how they attack civilians, it’s disgusting.

"In Ukraine, people speak Russian and Ukrainian, we all have family connections with Russia and there are a lot of mixed families. It’s not that we are against Russia, we are against Putin.

"This war will not go away and I think this will spread to other countries. It’s a very serious situation.

"My family still lived in Crimea in 2014 when it was annexed and so they moved to Kiev. My mum and dad took longer to move and they had a hard time living there under the Russians.

"I was never able to go back to Crimea after 2014 and I never will be able to, but I hope Ukraine will win and I can go back to my country to see my family and friends. The people of Ukraine will never put up with the Russians in charge.

"This war is a clear attack on Western values and we can’t let them win.”

Speaking about how people can help, Anastasia said: “At present it is much more efficient to transfer money directly than organising transfers of goods all the way to Poland through Europe. This aid most of the time cannot be delivered directly and takes a very long time.

"I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support, from donations to just kind words of support. I keep telling my friends back home about this every day and this means a lot to them, knowing that someone cares, especially when you are in the middle of the war and so cut off.”

To donate to the Red Cross Ukraine appeal, go to www.redcross.org.uk.

And anyone interested in taking in taking Ukrainian refugees into their homes can go to https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/.