Six months on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many refugees are rebuilding their lives thousands of miles from home.

An estimated six million Ukrainians were forced to leave everything behind and set off on a long, traumatic and difficult journey, often not knowing where they would end up.

Scotland has become home to thousands of Ukrainians, with North Ayrshire opening its arms to more than 200 men, women and children, with more families expected in the weeks and months ahead.

North Ayrshire Council’s Refugee Task Force has been co-ordinating the local effort to support those fleeing the Russian invasion and ensure they receive the help and support they need.

Council leader Marie Burns and cabinet member for place Scott Davidson met some of those who have been welcomed to the area, to find out how they have adapted to life here and discover the issues they face.

“It’s difficult to conceive how it would feel to be forced to leave your home and everything you knew, before crossing a continent to a place you have never been before,” said the council leader.

“It was inspiring but also humbling to speak to some of our Ukrainian guests to find out how they have settled in North Ayrshire and what issues they face.

“For us as a council, it’s not just about providing accommodation – it’s about making them feel welcome and ensure they get the support they need. If we put ourselves in their shoes, we would hope that someone would be there to offer us the helping hand.

“What was very clear from today’s conversations, is the ongoing uncertainty makes things difficult for them as they don’t know when the war will end and when they will be able to go home.

“It’s important that, however long they are here, we want them to feel like North Ayrshire is a home away from home.

“I know there has been a large outpouring of public support across Scotland for Ukraine and it’s vital we continue to offer whatever help we can. They can count on our continued support here in North Ayrshire and I’m sure that feeling is echoed across the country.”

The council’s Refugee Task Force has previously helped Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland, as well as helping to resettle people from Afghanistan following the conflict in the middle east.

And that experience has been vital in helping Ukrainians adapt and settle to life in North Ayrshire, whether it’s making sure they can access health services or helping children access education, or even helping prepare CVs to allow them to work or access training.

While a number of people have arrived under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme or through the Scottish Super Sponsor Scheme, it has been a logistical challenge to find accommodation for the new arrivals.

Community support has been vital in helping the refugees adjust to life in North Ayrshire. Weekly language cafés to help people learn English have been vital and plans are taking shape for Cranberry Moss Community Centre in Kilwinning to be a hub for Ukrainians, with activities and resources they have specifically requested.

Councillor Davidson said: “While the council has been at the forefront of helping the refugees, this has only been possible with a huge team effort involving many different partner agencies and individuals. Although there are too many to individually name, I want to thank everyone who has played their part in not only welcoming the refugees but making them feel supported and wanted.

“We have bilingual officers who have been key to ensuring that our Ukrainian families are well informed. The network of support which has been put together in such a short space of time has been incredible to see.

“It was also heartening to hear how the children are adapting to life in Scotland and already integrating at school and making friends.

“We can’t imagine what they and their families have gone through these past six months, but we hope that they are able to find some peace of mind here in North Ayrshire.”