A Ukrainian boy is hoping to make his football dreams come true in Scotland, having fled his homeland after the outbreak of war.

Tikhon Vorobyov, along with his three brothers - Mykola Jr, Platon and Lukyan - as well as his mother - Evgeniya - and father - Mykola - have settled in Oban after leaving Ukraine in March 2022. Their hometown of Bucha is subject to an ongoing investigation into potential crimes against humanity by invading Russian forces, with evidence of summary executions, torture, rape and mutilation.

Mykola Vorobyov says: “When the war started on February 24, the children and I stayed at home. My wife went to work in Borodianka and from February 24 to March 17 we didn’t see her.

“My children and I were in the occupation from February 24 to March 11 and my wife was in Borodianka from February 24 to March 13.

“She was a social worker and was one of four or five people caring for 450 sick and injured people, they were held hostage and used as human shields by the Russian soldiers.

"I was at home with the children, because we no longer had work, and the children had no studies due to the outbreak of the war, and we were under the occupation of Russian troops.

"My children and I left the occupation on March 10, and all these days, for the most part, we were under round-the-clock shelling.

"Our house was a couple of kilometers from the Lyutezh bridgehead, Russian helicopters and fighter jets were flying over our houses.

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"The entire period when we were under occupation, we had neither light nor heat, most of the time the children sat in the cellar, since the shelling did not stop day or night.

"We left the occupation on foot with the children because the cars were shot by machine guns.

"When crossing the Irpin River, we came under mortar fire and lost our faithful friend, a labrador dog named Dora, with whom I would share half of my food.

“When we were back together, my wife and us, we went to east Ukraine and looked at where we could go from Ukraine to Europe.

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“On 20 or 22 of March we went to Europe and drove all across the continent. We stayed for two months in Ireland while we waited for a visa to be able to come to Britain.”

In May the family were granted a visa to come to the UK and settled in Oban, surrounded by the sea and the mountains.

Mykola says: “It is very, very nice with very nice people. We are grateful. The country has many mountains, there is the sea and it’s very, very beautiful. We like it a lot and you Scottish are very good people, you have big hearts.”

While the family have been welcomed by the local community, moving to the other side of Europe to a country where you struggle to speak the language is not easy.

For the Vorobyovs though things have been made easier thanks to 14-year-old Tikhon’s exploits with local football club Lochnell.

Mykola says: “We are very happy that Tikhon is playing football. He has loved football since he was a little boy, he always had the ball at his feet running around.

The Herald: VorobyovVorobyov (Image: Newsquest)

“Maybe football will be his life, I don’t know. Tikhon played in Ukraine for seven years.”

Based in Connell just outside of Oban, the team plays in a Glasgow league and travels three hours there and back every second week for away games.

It’s a big commitment for anyone, not least a 14-year-old freshly arrived from Ukraine.

Coach Bill Dundas says: “My son came back from school one day in June and said ‘I’ve found you another player’.

“I had no contact details at all for the family, I didn’t know where they lived and Angus, my own boy, is useless at trying to find out information.

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“My neighbours three doors along had taken in a Ukrainian family so I messaged my neighbour to say ‘can you ask your Ukrainians if they know of this boy Tikhon?’ and we were able to join up from there.

“Tikhon arrived with us in July, and I can’t even imagine how difficult it is. It’s difficult enough when you get someone new and they come to training and have never met anyone before.

“He’d met some of the guys because he was at school with them, but he didn’t really know them.

“We got him to come to training and get involved and then he just became part of the club. I could see he was starting to learn people’s names, he was able to start communicating quite effectively – the football pitch is an amazing space because you don’t have to speak fluent English to do it.

“Tikhon doesn’t get treated any differently, we don’t have Ukrainian fluency so Martin, the coach, on a Friday night will tell Tikhon a whole series of instructions.

The Herald: Tikhon Vorobyov with coach Bill DundasTikhon Vorobyov with coach Bill Dundas (Image: Newsquest)

“I don’t know if he understands them or not but clearly he’s working out enough, and he’s a very talented footballer so he knows enough to fit in to our team.

“He’s exceptionally quick, so we try and get him where he can really cause most trouble. He doesn’t work that hard all the time, he can be a little bit lazy sometimes so he has to listen to me and Ronnie the other coach saying ‘come on, work harder’.

“It has been amazing to have him, he’s incredibly talented. We absolutely love having him and our team is a whole lot better for having him there.

“I’m hopeful that by having him there it opens up his relationship with the guys and it makes it easier at school.

"I can see when he plays football he smiles, when he has the ball at his feet and is weaving in and out he’s just beaming and that’s a great thing.

“Tikhon can play football with us as an equal – maybe just a wee bit better, because he is quite good!”

The youngster’s idol is Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina star Lionel Messi, and he hopes to join an academy for a Scottish team.

Mykola says: “Tikhon very much wants to go to a football academy next.

“We think maybe it would be good, next we will look at that idea.”

Coach Bill agrees: “A football academy is tough here, because there’s a lot of driving. But it’s possible.

“There are one or two players from this area who would normally go and progress, they go and train with Hamilton or Kilmarnock and travel up and down that road once, twice, three times a week.”

Asked if he’s going to grow up and play for Ukraine, Tikhon beams and confidently says “Yes!”.

His coach points out he could also become eligible for Scotland. It must be said the suggestion is greeted rather less enthusiastically…