Charles voices shock at Ukraine war during chat with refugee

The Prince of Wales met a mother who has fled Kyiv with her children during a visit to Belfast.

23 March 2022

The Prince of Wales spoke of his shock and concern at the war in Ukraine as he met a mother who has fled Kyiv with her children.

Maryna Opanasenko, who arrived in Northern Ireland earlier this month having escaped Ukraine via Slovakia, was among guests at a reception at Titanic Belfast for local organisations involved in helping and supporting refugees.

Mrs Opanasenko, who worked as a lawyer in Kyiv, has brought her sons Taras, 12, and Bohdan, six, to live with her mother in Co Armagh while her husband Oleksii remains in Kyiv volunteering in aid efforts to support people living in the besieged city.

She expressed gratitude to Charles for his words of comfort during their meeting.

Royal visit to NI and Ireland
The Prince of Wales meets Ukrainian women in Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

“He said that he will pray for Ukraine, that he still does not believe that such awful things are happening, and that Britain is helping Ukraine,” Mrs Opanasenko said afterwards.

She added: “Ukrainians really feel this help.

“I am thankful to Britain and Prince Charles too, that he came and he is interested and he is trying to help us.

“He is really concerned with the situation in Ukraine, he knows a lot about Ukraine, that it’s a beautiful country and the war is an unbelievable situation for Europe.”

The engagement came at the end of Charles and Camilla’s second day in Northern Ireland. The couple are on a four-day tour of the island of Ireland and will make a series of public appearances in the Republic of Ireland on Thursday and Friday.

At the event in Titanic Belfast, Charles also met loved ones of police officers killed during the Troubles.

The Prince of Wales, who is patron of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation, spoke to volunteers, parents and members of the “Forgotten Families” RUC GC Widows Group.

While Charles was holding engagements on the upper floors of Titanic Belfast, Camilla was given a tour of the landmark visitor centre as it prepared to mark its 10th birthday.

Charles meets the public
Charles speaks to members of the public during a tour of CS Lewis Square, Connswater Greenway, Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

She was given a flavour of the Titanic Experience, learning about Belfast’s shipbuilding and industrial history.

Earlier, Charles and Camilla began their day of public engagements with a visit to Belfast’s very own version of Narnia.

Hundreds of wellwishers welcomed the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to CS Lewis Square, which is named after the author who was born in the city.

The popular community park in the east of the city is dotted with statues inspired by the fantasy world created by Lewis in his famous Chronicles Of Narnia, the most striking of which is a towering metal sculpture of Aslan the lion.

People dressed as central characters in Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe – Mr Tumnus and the White Witch – helped guide the royal couple around the square.

During the visit they heard about the work of EastSide Partnership to regenerate that part of Belfast.

The couple concluded the visit to the literary-themed square by posing for a photo alongside a statue of Lewis and the wardrobe.

Michelle Bryans, chief executive of EastSide Partnership, said it was a significant day for the organisation.

“This was huge for us,” she said. “EastSide Partnership has been around for 25 years so we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary today also.

Charles and Camilla
Charles and Camilla at the CS Lewis statue (Niall Carson/PA)

“We’re so delighted to be recognised in this way.”

After the tour of CS Lewis Square, the couple went their separate ways for several other engagements in Belfast.

The duchess walked a short distance to the Holywood Arches Library where she met old and young regulars.

The visit was part of her long-standing commitment to encouraging literacy and reading.

Royal visit to NI and Ireland
The Duchess of Cornwall during a visit to Holywood Arches Library (Russell Cheyne/PA)

She then travelled to BBC Broadcasting House in the city centre where she met presenters and staff at BBC Radio Ulster and toured the television news studio.

Elsewhere in the city, the Prince of Wales officially reopened the Grand Opera House following its recent restoration.

He met architects, conservators and interior designers involved in the project.

Charles then watched a short performance in the main auditorium by young people before unveiling a plaque.

During his visit he shared a joke with veteran panto dame May McFettridge and comedian Tim McGarry.

Charles meets May McFettridge
Charles meets panto dame May McFettridge (Niall Carson/PA)

Afterwards the chairman of the Grand Opera House Trust, Colin Loughran, said: “We know the Prince of Wales has a keen interest in the preservation of historic buildings so for him to see the fantastic results of our recent restoration up close, and to meet the expert team who delivered it, was very fitting.”

Charles also took time to visit the Marie Curie Hospice in Belfast to hear about their work.

He met patients, families and staff at the hospice run by the end-of-life charity and added a personal message on a special Wall of Reflection.

During the visit, Charles paid tribute to all those involved with Marie Curie.

“I know only full well what an enormous difference you make to so many people’s lives both here and obviously within the community,” he said.

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