William and an emotional looking Kate went to the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Holland Park, west London, to meet volunteers sending two lorry loads of aid each day to their fellow countrymen fighting a Russian invasion and a humanitarian catastrophe. The second in line to the throne told them Britain and the rest of Europe were united behind them and spoke of the shock of seeing war on European soil.
William, 39, said Britons were much more used to seeing conflict in Africa and Asia. “It’s very alien to see this in Europe. We are all behind you, ”he said.
But he added that he, like many, wanted to do more to help. “We feel so useless,” he said.
He and Kate, 40, wore Ukrainian yellow and blue solidarity badges and took trays of chocolate brownies and granola bars, homemade at Kensington Palace, for the volunteers.
They offered assistance from their charitable foundation for children and young people suffering mental health problems and trauma from the war and said their own children, or at least their older two, Prince George, eight, and Princess Charlotte, six, had been affected by the unfolding tragedy in Eastern Europe.
“Ours have been coming home asking all about it,” William said. “They are obviously talking about it with their friends at school.”
He suggested he had found it difficult discussing some of it with his children, adding he had to “choose my words carefully to explain what is going on”.
The royal couple spent an hour chatting to some of the 30 or 40 volunteers working daily at the center, a social club, to send aid to a hub in western Ukraine and on to people on the front line.
In the club, packed with boxes of first aid, over-the-counter medicines, food for babies and adults, and military coats and socks, they spoke to volunteers taking calls from people all over Britain offering assistance.
Many of the calls come from the diaspora, some of the 100,000 Ukrainians living in Britain and worried about their friends and families, but others here have been eager to help as well.
The couple were shown around by the Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, his wife Inna, and Inna Hryhorovych, who set up the relief operation.
William and Kate spoke to them and the other volunteers about the crisis and listened to their fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin will unleash a Third World War unless he can be stopped in Ukraine. They spoke about the dangers of a second disaster at Chernobyl and also of the impact on the rest of Europe of losing Ukraine’s agricultural output.
William said: “The irony is it brings Europe closer together. Europe is closer together than it’s ever been before because of Ukraine. “
In a hall still packed with aid boxes on the stage and full to the brim until it was cleared when the last lorries went out, he praised the people of Ukraine for their spirit and the volunteers for their commitment. “We have seen a lot of that Ukrainian spirit already,” he told them. “Keep together. Everyone is there for you. “
He added: “We feel for you, we really do.”
He and Kate gladly posed for photos with the volunteers, saying it was the least they could do. They had been supposed to help with packing but in the crowded chaos it did not happen.
The Duchess suggested returning to do that. “I think we need to come and help out here,” Kate said. “Give you some respite.”