Elzara Batalova looked out of the window of her Kyiv apartment on February 25, 2022 and knew she had to leave her homeland behind.

As Russian forces marched along the west bank of the Dnipro river and looked to encircle the Ukrainian capital, fighter jets bombarded the city as the Kremlin looked to achieve an instant capitulation.

The singer had already been forced to leave her home in Crimea, and understood she would be forced to leave her nation altogether.

Now settled in the Borders, she will perform at the Glasgow Stands With Ukraine concert on September 16 as she and others look to send solidarity to their compatriots in Scotland and back in Ukraine, which she and other refugees have seen ravaged by the war.

Ms Batalova told The Herald: "When the war started I was really scared. There were bombs falling and I was just in my flat with my mum and my son, it wasn’t as though we had guns or anything.

“The second day when I looked out of the window I saw everything was being battered by the Russians.

Read More: Ukrainian refugee family at home in Oban thanks to football

"It was so scary, you can imagine: you are living your peaceful life and some crazy man in Moscow destroys everything you and everyone have built over many, many years – and for what? I don’t understand.

“We decided to leave Ukraine because I was really scared, I didn’t know how I could work there anymore with no concerts or anything, how we would eat, or when things would be normal.

"Maybe like all the Ukrainian people I thought I was a strong woman but when this started happening I did not know what to do. I had an elderly mother with me with disabilities, I had a son, and I didn’t know how we could live.

"All Ukrainian women with children can understand, we have meetings (here in Scotland) and we talk together - we sometimes cry together."

The invasion was the latest and most devastating in a series of escalations which began with the 'Revolution of Dignity' in 2014 which saw incumbent president Viktor Yanukovych ousted.

The Kremlin decried the events as a coup, and occupied and later annexed the region of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea with a long and bloody history.

It was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1783 then seized by an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, the UK and the Kingdom of Sardinia in the Crimean War.

Following the October Revolution of 1917 it was a gory battleground in the civil war that followed, with the Bolsheviks eventually establishing control only for Nazi Germany to occupy it until 1944.

When the Red Army pushed Hitler's forces back, Joseph Stalin painted the native Tatar people as collaborators and expelled close to 200,000 of them - including Ms Batalova's grandparents.

Read More: How young Ukrainians hope Scottish experience will help them rebuild homeland

She says: "When I was a child I remember my grandmother told me about it.

“They lost their mother and father in Siberia because of Stalin, who is like the first Putin. They are both people from the system, the KGB or whoever: devils. Our people, Crimean Tatars, know this system very well.

“After the Second World War in 1944, all Crimean Tatars were deported. Some died, some went to Siberia and died there, some went to Uzbekistan.

“My family were sent to Siberia on a train – a sheep train, not one for people - and a lot of people died on that train.

"In 1967 the Soviet Union decided to set the Crimean Tatars free and my grandmother and grandfather were the first people to come back because they were very, very patriotic and loved their land.

“When they came to Crimea the Soviet Union did not give them a flat, they did not give them work, for 10 years they did not have documents.

“When they came back they had a lot of absolutely beautiful Crimean Tatar songs about this deportation, one of them is called ‘Ey, güzel Qırım’ which means ‘Oh beautiful Crimea’ and I will sing it in Glasgow at the concert.

The Herald:

“It’s about how the Crimean Tatar people lost their home to the Russian deportations.

"Every Ukrainian Tatar everywhere knows this song, it’s a very important song for all of us. It’s very interesting and beautiful to sing this song with Scottish musicians, because I know that Scottish people love freedom like us.

“They play very beautifully and with a little bit of a Scottish melody, it’s such a beautiful collaboration: Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian and Scottish music."

While Crimea has a large ethnically Russian population - it was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 - for someone of Tatar heritage the 2014 occupation was a signal to leave.

Ms Batalova explains: "Crimean Tatars, we remember all of this - we do not forget it.

"In 2014 when Russia occupied our land, my native land, everything stopped and I couldn’t understand why it was going on.

“I have Russian friends: composers, poets. Growing up in Ukraine we learned ‘love these people’ so I didn’t know why it was going on.

“My family and I decided to leave Crimea in 2014 and go to Kyiv. It was not easy, because I had no concerts and most of my people live in Crimea.

"A lot of Crimean Tatar people did not want it and said ‘no’ but a lot of them suppressed those feelings, and when it happened a lot of people were scared of saying the wrong thing because soldiers were everywhere. We decided to leave because we didn't want to live under occupation."

Eight years after leaving Crimea the singer was on the move again, this time travelling to the other side of Europe - specifically Cardrona, Peebles - with no English and little more than the clothes on her back.

The Herald:

She says: "I just took one bag, put on my dress and came here.

"When the war started my voice did not want to sing songs because my heart was just broken.

"A lot of Scottish women came to our hotel and told us ‘just tell us what you need and we will help you’. We had volunteer English lessons where women just came along and helped us and we learned English at the Borders College.

“They took some clothes to us too, it was like being at home.

“So step-by-step I understood that I had to live, I stopped crying and knew I was in a good country with good people around us.

"When we came to Scotland I didn’t know English very well, I’ve only been learning it for this last year.

“We didn’t have any friends here but we got taken to a very small hotel and people were very nice, they brought us food and said ‘hello, how are you?’ and everything like this with big smiles. I started to see the beautiful heart of these people.

“I learned to say ‘please’ - I used that a lot! - and ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’. Then it was ‘could you?’ and things like that.

“I learned English and now I’m learning business administration online because I understand that I have a new life here.

"I worked as a waitress in Peebles, but now I have decided that I need to take some steps to find jobs in the arts like I had in Ukraine – maybe some theatre director or producer will read this and call me!

The Herald:

"After a few months I went to Edinburgh to sing some songs for Ukrainians. Matthew (Zajac), the director of the concert in Glasgow saw me and said ‘you are a great singer we can make a group and sing songs and find some money and give it to Ukraine’."

There will, inevitably, be those who scoff at Glasgow Stands With Ukraine, as though its intention were to convince Putin to roll his tanks back through the power of song.

Instead though it's the message it sends out to Ukrainians at home and abroad, as well as the nation that's welcomed them.

Ms Batalova says: "I think it’s very important, first of all for the Ukrainians who live here.

"Psychologically it’s like a comfort blanket to show that we are not alone here, and to be able to sing our songs is very important for us.

“For Scottish people I think it’s important too, to help understand the psychology and culture of Ukrainians.

“I understand if a lot of Scottish people are stressed by the situation, they don’t know who these guys from Ukraine are. You live your whole life in this calm little village where you know everyone, then a lot of Ukrainians come and you go ‘who are these guys?’.

“So we need to communicate and understand that we are all the same.

“And most important is for the Ukrainians who live in Ukraine, because the tickets that people buy, the money goes to Ukraine to help them with medical supplies and doctors and things like that.

“Our two countries are democratic and we don’t want war or crazy people like Stalin or Putin.

"I think we will win in this war, and everyone will go home. We need to rebuild our home and make our country better.”

Glasgow Stands with Ukraine takes place at the Royal Concert Hall on September 16, and will be hosted by River City’s Cameron Fulton and Ukrainian opera star Oksana Mavrodi.

Tickets and more information are available here.