The Prince of Wales has spoken out about the “nightmare situation” in Ukraine during a trip to Romania to meet refugees who have fled the war in their homeland.
Charles was joined by distant relative Margareta, head of the Romanian royal family, for the unannounced tour of a donation centre for refugees in the capital Bucharest.
More than a million Ukrainians have crossed the border into Romania since the Russian invasion in February and the nation has had to quickly adapt to deal with the needs of the displaced.
Speaking through an interpreter, the prince told a group of Ukrainian families: “We feel for Ukraine, a nightmare situation. Keep praying.”
Charles, who at one point clasped hands with a little boy, added: “I’m full of admiration for the Ukrainian people.”
He met representatives from non-governmental organisations and charities like the Salvation Army and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, working at the Romexpo donation centre to provide everything from children’s toys and toiletries to household goods and pet food.
Lilia Nimych, 33, an entrepreneur who produced a range of pet products in her home city of Bila Tserkva in central Ukraine, fled with her daughters Emily, six, and Nilana, 14.
She said: “I’m so happy we came here, we’ve received so much help.
“All we saw from windows was bombs dropping… that’s why we left. We saw bombs coming down on our city – scary.”
After hearing Charles’s words of support she said: “It makes us brave and gives us the power to stand tall.”
Charles chatted briefly to Stephen Noble, a minister and Major with the Scarborough branch of the Salvation Army, who for the past month has been working in Romania with the organisation’s international emergency services section.
The section deploys to disasters around the world and from the distribution centre has been providing £10 vouchers to Ukrainians aged under 18 for their families to spend on goods they need.
The minister said: “It may not seem a huge amount but when you think we’re seeing something in the order of 13,500 people, that’s a lot of money.”
“I guess always we’re trying to bring dignity to people who are in tough situations, here we’ve got a lot of provision for clothing and provision for food and hygiene, this gives people the dignity to use the voucher in supermarkets, or pharmacies, or even for fuel.”
The prince’s tour of the Romexpo donation centre is the latest in a series of events he has attended to show solidarity with the plight of Ukraine and its people.
He has been a regular visitor to Romania over the past 20 years and set up the Prince of Wales Foundation Romania to support the development of farming, traditional skills and the preservation of historic buildings through training.
It is thought Charles, who earlier met Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, is spending time privately in the country ahead of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations which begin next week.
Charles was joined throughout the visit by local and national politicians alongside Margareta, who does not use her title of Queen of Romania but is known as the Custodian of the Romanian Crown.
Cosmina Simiean, general manager of the Municipality of Bucharest’s social assistance department, organised the depot for the refugees, bringing together the NGOs and charities under one roof.
Speaking candidly about the issues they faced, when Ukrainians first arrived in the capital by train, she said: “We are not prepared in Romania for refugees, it doesn’t have a tradition for refugees.” But she said her team managed the situation.
Highlighting the importance of supporting the refugees, Ms Simiean said Ukrainian women cried when they gave them baby bottles to replace ones they had been unable to sterilise for days.
She said about the royal visit: “Prince Charles just stopping by and saying hello, it means a lot.”