The Prince of Wales has visited the spiritual leader of Ukrainian Catholics in the UK to show his solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
Joined by wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles paid tribute to the “extraordinary bravery, generosity and fortitude of the Ukrainian community” in the face of the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia.
They were welcomed to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Mayfair, London, by Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, the Eparch and spiritual leader of the 18,000 Catholic Ukrainians who live in the UK.
Bishop Nowakowski told the couple: “We are grateful for your presence here. We know you have brought with you some of the charities and humanitarian aid organisations that you are patron of.
“We are so grateful for their assistance and hope that with them we can work together to assist people, especially our refugees who are fleeing Ukraine, coming to the European Union and eventually coming here, that we will be able to assist them. It is a great time of need for our community.”
Prince Charles said: “Thank you so much for welcoming us to this very special cathedral.
“I must say my wife and I have been deeply moved by everything we have heard today during our visit and above all by the extraordinary bravery, generosity and fortitude of the Ukrainian community in the face of such truly terrible aggression.
“So if I may say so, our thoughts and prayers, however inadequate they may be, are with all of you at this most critical time.”
The heir to the throne then gave the cry “Slava Ukraine!” (glory to Ukraine), which prompted other guest to respond with “Slava heroyam” (glory to the heroes).
Charles and Camilla were also introduced to a group of Ukrainian schoolchildren, who presented the couple with signs they made in the yellow and blue colours of the Ukrainian flag. They bore messages such as: “Stop Putin”, “Save Ukraine”, and “Stop the war”.
A choir also sang a version of the song Chervona Kalyna, Red Guelder Rose, an anthem which evokes images of the homeland and which was often sung by Ukrainian insurgents during the Second World War.
Also in attendance was Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, and his wife, Inna Prystaiko.
At one point, the Duchess of Cornwall hugged Mrs Prystaiko and told her: “We are praying for you.”
The visit to the cathedral came days after the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, attended a service of prayer and expressed his own solidarity with the people of the Ukraine following the start of the Russian invasion on Thursday last week.
Prince Charles has already made personal donations to the British Red Cross and World Jewish Relief to assisted with the humanitarian efforts to relieve the suffering of the Ukrainian people and wanted to find out how he could help further.
He was accompanied by delegations from the two charities as well as those from In Kind Direct, the International Rescue Committee and International Health Partners.
The Prince and the Duchess lit candles before they left the cathedral and laid two sunflower, the national flower of Ukraine, on the altar.
At a press conference afterwards, Bishop Nowakowski, who was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada, said the royal visit represented a “very important day” for the Ukainian community.
“They came here this afternoon to express their solidarity with the Ukrainian people not only here in the United Kingdom but especially those in Ukraine,” he said.
“They had an opportunity to be in the cathedral to light candles and say a prayer and then they joined us in our auditorium where they were able to meet Ukrainian volunteers who have been working very hard since the beginning of the war eight years ago but especially in these last few days – organising humanitarian packages, rallies and being with other people.”
He said: “What I think was most meaningful for me was the Prince also encouraged a few of the humanitarian organisations that he is patron of to join us as well.
“He emphasised that it was not just words that he was here to talk about but also to encourage people to do special actions like donate to organisations helping people in Ukraine and Poland and then those who will be welcomed in the UK.
“It was very meaningful for us,” he added. “The fact that they spent so much time reassuring and expressing their solidarity with us, it was a very important day for us.”
Bisohp Nowakowski said that the Prince made no reference to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in his remarks.
Olesya Khromeychuk, director of the Ukrainian Institute London, told the press conference that the “general mobilisation” of armed forces meant that all people of fighting age were obliged to stay within their country.
As a result most refugees for the present time were among the young, elderly and the vulnerable, she said, but a Russian occupation, or an unforeseen disaster arising from the conflict, could create a refugee crisis involving millions of people.