Volunteer who quit job to help Ukrainians living in Scotland honoured

A volunteer who gave up her job to help the humanitarian response to the invasion of Ukraine has been recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours.

Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk, 63, has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the Ukrainian community in Scotland.

Mrs Beaton-Hawryluk, who lives in South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, took time off from work when the fighting broke out and she became Holova (chairwoman) of Edinburgh’s Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) nine days after Russian President Vladimur Putin’s invasion.

She later told her boss at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh that she would not be going back, and for the past two-and-a-half years she has dedicated her life to helping with the humanitarian efforts in Edinburgh and raised £5.5 million.

Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk pictured with Nicola Sturgeon and other volunteers at the Edinburgh Ukrainian Club
Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk, right, pictured with then first minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh Ukrainian Club in March 2022 (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

Mrs Beaton-Hawryluk, whose father was Ukrainian, is now working to ensure that displaced Ukrainian children are able to continue speaking their mother tongue, having an awareness of how easily the language can be lost with integration, as she never learnt the language.

Her father was forced to settle in Scotland after the Second World War, and she told how she hopes he would be proud of her.

She joined AUGB in 2004 to celebrate her heritage and said that pre-war, the Ukrainian Community Centre was holding around two events per month. It is now helping 500 people a week and has doubled its membership.

In the first three weeks, a collection point amassed around 200 boxes of aid and had more than 200 volunteers – and a weekly programme of activities was set up for the Ukrainian diaspora, including those living on a cruise ship in Leith docks.

Mother-of-three Mrs Beaton-Hawryluk said: “I’m just grateful I was able to give up my job. People who come here are so grateful for what they have been given – they arrived with nothing. My problems seem small in comparison.”

She said the community centre allows refugees living in hotels to cook and to speak their language so it does not get “diluted” from being in the UK.

Mrs Beaton-Hawryluk said: “Children are losing their Ukrainian – if that happens then Putin has won.”

The organisation has expanded from being voluntary to having paid staff, and the City of Edinburgh Council provided funding for a warehouse for aid.

Mrs Beaton-Hawryluk added: “I hope it’s what my dad would have wanted.”