A UKRAINIAN Opera singer who fled the Russian invasion has helped launch Scotland’s Refugee Festival with a special performance during its opening event.

Oksana Mavrodii performed alongside concert pianist and fellow Ukrainian Iryna Melnychenko.

The musicians kicked off the 10-day festival which contains more than 100 events across Scotland.

Mavrodii said: “When I heard about Refugee Festival Scotland, I wanted to get involved. During hard times it’s important to stand up and use your voice. Being a musician, music is the best way for me to do that and the festival is a really great platform.

“Being a refugee or asylum seeker can be perceived negatively but we should not treat refugees as a burden. Just because someone is a refugee, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have skills to bring. People are often highly skilled and highly educated and they could make a really valuable contribution to society.”

The National:

Mavrodii and Melnychenko were joined by T2 actor Thierry Mabonga, who came to Scotland at the age of eight after fleeing the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

He has been involved with the festival since 2020 when he performed in the piece Black Scots, based on his experiences as a refugee.

He said: “I’m really happy that Refugee Festival Scotland exists. It’s very important that there’s a space for people to share stories that might not otherwise get told.

“I really believe in the power of storytelling. There’s more to a human being than trauma. We need to see the joys as well as the grief and the conflicts and the challenges of someone’s situation. I think that’s what keeps us alive.”

The festival aims to showcase the food and drink, music and dance, language, and art of the diverse refugee communities within Scotland.

Each event will celebrate the lives and experiences of refugees through mediums such as art, theatre, film, food, and music.

For details of the festival’s full programme visit their website: www.refugeefestivalscotland.co.uk