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Ukraine invasion / Ukraine: Anxiety but also practical help on the ground

Photo: Pelagia.

WHILE local people with friends and family in Ukraine feel an increasing sense of helplessness when watching the latest news coming from the besieged country, a seafood business with a strong Shetland links is active in getting some practical help and relief underway in the capital Kyiv.

Pelagia, the Norwegian producer of pelagic fish products and owner of the Shetland Catch and Bressay fish meal factories, has turned its five large seafood shops in Kyiv into kitchens to feed its employees and also providing food for population ready to defend their city.

Meanwhile, Bigton resident Annalie Irvine is anxiously checking for news on her Telegram messaging service from her friends in the city of Lviv, near the Polish border.

The Ukrainian government Telegram feed at @UkraineNOW has become an essential source of information for hundreds of thousands of people inside Ukraine but also for those looking in.

Pelagia, based in Bergen, has strongly condemned Russia’s military attack on Ukraine calling it a “serious violation of international law”.

The company’s chief operating officer Magnus Strand told Shetland News that Pelagia’s operations in Ukraine are suspended, and its offices and shops are closed while the focus is shifted to looking after the wellbeing of the business’ employees and partners.

“Our focus now is 100 per cent to help and try to do our best in support of not just our people but also the rest of Ukraine,” he said.

Pelagia is one of the world’s largest exporters of mackerel and herring products and has business interests in 65 countries including Ukraine.

Shetland Catch’s largest export market has always been Russia, but that trade came to a hold in 2014 when sanctions against Russia were imposed following the invasion of Crimea.

Strand said Pelagia was operating a fish import business located in Kyiv which employs 17 people. The company is also a partner in five large seafood retail and restaurant businesses in the capital employing a further 500 people.

“We are also organising inside Kyiv a kitchen where our people are working to support the Ukrainian military with food; that’s done by our people and at our expense,” Strand said.

‘I can’t take my mind off it’

Irvine said that ever since the invasion begun last week she has been in a “heightened state of anxiety” and added that she finds it difficult to switch off from the news coming from Ukraine.

Having been to Ukraine for the first time 30 years ago at the age of 15 she said she has formed a close bond to Ukraine and many of its neighbouring countries.

She has visited Ukraine on many occasions since and has close friends in the western city Lviv, where people have so far not experienced any shelling by Russian troops but have regularly been called to the bomb shelters.

The teacher, who is well known locally as a musician and fundraiser in humanitarian appeals for Syria and Palestine, is also planning to host a number of solidarity concerts with her band Odessa which will feature Ukrainian folk music.

“I am at a heightened state of anxiety about it all,” she said. “Obviously I care about the whole of the Ukraine but I am thinking of my friends there all the time.

“I am always checking how Lviv is in the morning, and I was very relieved when I heard from Max on Wednesday.

“I have always cared deeply but this is very personal and difficult. I can’t take my mind off it. It’s very close when you realise that your friends’ lives are at risk.”

Folk have the chance to show their solidarity with the people of Ukraine at a vigil at Lerwick’s Market Cross on Saturday at 1pm.