Princess of Wales comforts Ukrainian mother as she meets displaced families

The Princess of Wales on Thursday consoled a Ukrainian mother who broke down in tears as she described the horrors of fleeing the war in her country.

Kate heard harrowing stories from families who were forced from Ukraine and stories of how they have been welcomed in the UK.

The princess spoke about the "horrors of war" and hailed the "resilience" and "bravery" of Ukrainians while visiting the Reading Ukrainian Community Centre on Thursday.

It comes afterKate and Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska have been working to help the mental health of people fleeing war.

The Princess of Wales visits the Reading Ukrainian Community Centre

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Wearing a chic polka dot dress, the princess hailed the centre as she arrived and said: "It is amazing to see the work being carried out and lots of people are coming out to support the Ukrainians here."

Speaking about the beginning of the war, Kate said: "Everyone was really keen to support but not sure how to."

Mick Polleck, deputy chairman of the centre, said: "The whole of Britain has been really good and we are eternally grateful."

He replied: "Considering the trauma families are experiencing on a day to day basis having a community centre like this provides a lifeline and opportunity."

The Princess of Wales sat down with Ukrainian women and children to hear their stories.

Some described how they were forced to hide in bomb shelters before fleeing.

Almost everyone said they had left husbands and other loved ones back in their homeland.

Most described how they had been given a home in the UK staying with British families thanks to a government scheme and hoped to find work.

One woman shook the royal's hand and said: "I’m very proud to have met you."

Kate said: "It’s still all going on and you have loved ones and family in Ukraine they still see the horrors of war every day."

She added: "I am so impressed at your bravery and resilience I am overwhelmed by how strong you all are."

Ukrainians who have settled across the south of England use the centre in Reading which has coffee meetings and classes for children

Kate added: "It must be so helpful now you have found a community.

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"Not being together and not having support must be very difficult."

Nadia Shcherbyna, 39, told Kate that some families are concerned as their six-month deals to stay with British families were coming to an end.

Kate replied: "You worry about what the future holds. What you have all been through it’s right that as a nation we help."

Many told Kate they did not know when they could return to Ukraine.

She said: "I can’t imagine the months and months or years away from family.

Kate added: "I feel for all of you."

Five-year-old Zlata Yeromenko handed over a painting that read ‘Kate I Love You’.

Zlata sat on Kate’s knee and posed for photos.

Galina Bolebrukh, 39, wept as she told Kate her harrowing story of hiding from Putin’s bombs in Kyiv.

She described fleeing with her three-year-old son Renat and mother Iryna and how she left her husband in Ukraine to fight on the front line.

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The mother-of-one apologised as she wiped away a tear, and Kate replied: "It’s understandable everything you have experienced."

Kate touched her heart and said: "I wish we could do more."

The princess also joined a painting class with children.

As she left, Kate hailed the "amazing" work carried out by the centre.

Antonio Gresko, chairman of the centre, said: "Thank you for your support but also please thank the whole of the Royal Family for their support."

Kate replied: "It’s the least we could do and wish we could do more."

Afterwards Galina, who left Ukraine in February and arrived in Reading in May, said: "I told her how horrible and difficult it was. We had to make a decision very quickly. We only took some shirts and trousers and left.

"It was very easy talking to her, she has a big heart.

"She tried to make me feel better and said everything was all right and said here we can get a job and live because we can’t go back to Ukraine."

Afterwards mother-of-two Nadia Shcherbyna, 39, said: "I was in a bomb shelter for two days with my children. It was a desperate situation. When I came here I started living again.

"Mental health is important. You can’t remain the same. You can’t just be normal after such experiences. Someone wants to destroy our nation."

The visit comes after Kate met Olena Zelenska in September.

The Royal Foundation of The Prince and Princess of Wales last week held a virtual meeting with the First Lady of Ukraine’s team last week.

They discussed working together on a mental health strategy to address the impact the ongoing conflict is having upon the mental wellbeing of Ukrainians.

The group also discussed the mental health support currently available for Ukrainians living in the UK.