Refugee uncertainty: 'I haven't unpacked my bags after cruise ship move'

More than 1,000 refugees had to disembark the MS Victoria cruise ship before its contract came to an end this week.  

MS Victoria: Ukrainian refugees facing fresh uncertainty about housing after cruise ship contract ends STV News

Anna Pironkova and her husband Sergeijj spent nine months living on a cruise ship in Leith after fleeing Ukraine when Russia invaded. 

Like hundreds of others, they had to disembark the MS Victoria before its contract with the government came to an end this week.  

The couple are among the refugees who have been moved to a hotel in Crossford, near Dunfermline, in Fife.

Sergeijj, who was exempt from fighting in Ukraine for medical reasons, works as a chef in Edinburgh, while Anna is a beautician in the city. 

Their new commute involves taking three buses. And they are uncertain about how long they will be living in the hotel. 

“We can stay here for maybe six months, or maybe one year, or maybe tomorrow we will be in another hotel. This is life,” said Anna.

“I didn’t unpack all my bags [so] I’m ready to move. It’s already stressful for you, being moved to other places, but it’s very helpful that you know you’re not alone.”

Since coming to Scotland, Anna has become close friends with Lidiia Pechorina. 

She and her 13-year-old son are sharing a bedroom at the same hotel as Anna and Sergeijj. 

He is already settled at his new school in Dunfermline, making friends and enjoying English lessons. 

And Lidiia says she feels an overwhelming gratitude for the welcome they’ve had in Scotland – despite all the uncertainty and upheaval.

She says she is happy that she can protect her son from bombings, adding: “It’s better in one bed in one room, [than] to be in three rooms in Odessa.” 

Finding somewhere more permanent to live isn’t an easy task for Ukrainian refugees.

The Scottish Government is spending £50m on refurbishing out-of-use homes around the country. 

So far the scheme has rehoused around 1,000 Ukrainians into 450 homes. 

Scottish council bosses released a report this week saying that the country is facing a “housing emergency”, with an acute shortage of council and social homes.

In Edinburgh alone, 5,000 households are in temporary homeless accommodation.

Councillor Jane Meagher, City of Edinburgh Council housing convener, told STV News: “When our Ukrainian guests are able to return to wherever they want to go, then of course these properties will be back in the housing stock, available to the whole city, which is what we really, really need.” 

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