Ukraine-Russia: ‘It feels shameful to be Russian at the moment’, says woman hosting a Ukrainian refugee in her Edinburgh home

A Russian-born woman living in Edinburgh has told how she opted to take in a refugee from Ukraine after a charity told her she needed to be interviewed about her political beliefs before she could volunteer as a translator.

Valentina Erastova, 34, who has lived in Scotland since she was 16 and has family in Ukraine, but was born in Moscow, said she had offered her services to translate for newly-arrived refugees in Scotland. However, she was told she would need to be quizzed on her politics in a formal interview process before her application was accepted.

Instead, she decided to help by taking in a refugee to her Edinburgh home.

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Ms Erastova, a scientist working for the University of Edinburgh, made contact with a Ukrainian woman who was away on a business trip in Brazil when war broke out and has agreed to host her once her visa has been processed.

However, the experience of being rejected from the organisation helping refugees coming to Scotland has had a lasting impact.

"I’m British now, but I'm Russian, originally, my parents live in Moscow, but my also, my dad's sister is in the east of Ukraine. I have tried to get her out to come here, but she is a typical proud Ukrainian, she doesn't want to leave. She still has her work.

"My application was for a group doing some organising for people who were coming here as refugees. I wanted to do some translations, I told them, I speak Russian, I don’t speak Ukrainian, but I can help, then I got this strange email saying, ‘oh, we need to hold an interview because you need to ask you about your political opinions’.

“I felt ‘ouch’. It was like, ‘if you look through my Twitter, you’ll see [my opinions]’. It felt like this was just too much, so I decided that I would go and do something else. It felt a bit funny, but I'm sure they had good intentions and they won’t have any problems finding translators, there are a lot of people in Edinburgh who speak Ukrainian and Russian and want to help.”