A group of Ukrainian civic and business leaders visited Norfolk under a new partnership aiming to build trade and cultural links to help their war-ravaged nation.

The delegation from Lviv visited the Royal Norfolk Show, where they met the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by a tour of key cultural attractions in Norwich, including the castle and cathedral, the Forum and Norwich Theatre Royal.

They said the summer county show offered a particularly eye-opening contrast to life in their home country, as crowds of carefree Norfolk families enjoyed the sunshine - while people in Lviv are coping with power cuts and fearful of Russian missile attacks.

Taras Vorko, a Lviv city councillor, said: "At the very beginning it was a bit of a shock, a feeling of being in a different reality having lived in Ukraine, in the third year of worries when the war is ongoing, seeing people enjoying this event with their families having a nice time.

"It has been nice just to be in a different reality for that short period."

The purpose of the visit was to explore opportunities for trade, education and cultural exchanges following the signing in May of a formal cooperation agreement between Norfolk County Council and the Ukrainian region of Lviv. This Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is the first of its kind in the UK.

"To have really detailed cooperation, everything starts with building network communication channels and relationships," said Mr Vorko.

"The first starting point was signing the MoU. Now, having started this cooperation practically, being here in person, we want to find exact, common interest points which will be beneficial for both Lviv region and Norfolk county as well."

Mr Vorko highlighted four key areas where he hopes to build mutually beneficial collaborations - agriculture, medicine, education and culture.

"First of all, we also have many farmers in Lviv region and we also grow lots of food, so we would like to consider potential exports and exchange of knowledge, technologies and innovations within the sector as well," he said.

"Second is the medical sector. Ukraine urgently needs some help, support and knowledge-sharing, and there are lots of people who will require support through rehabilitation."

"Third is the educational sector. Lviv has got a number of well-recognised universities and we would like to arrange maybe some student exchange to share knowledge and collaborate between universities. There is some partnerships already happening and we would like to streamline this and cover as many links between universities as possible."

The fourth focus area is the "cultural sector", he said, building on existing links such as the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine's planned concert in Norwich in October.

A delegation from Lviv in Ukraine forged new links with Norfolk during a visit to the Royal Norfolk Show. From left: Taras Vorko of Lviv City Council, Oleh Volskyi, mayor of Zhovkva city, and Mykola Kobetiak, deputy director of Nova FoodA delegation from Lviv in Ukraine forged new links with Norfolk during a visit to the Royal Norfolk Show. From left: Taras Vorko of Lviv City Council, Oleh Volskyi, mayor of Zhovkva city, and Mykola Kobetiak, deputy director of Nova Food (Image: Denise Bradley)

Oleh Volskyi, mayor of Zhovkva, a city within the Lviv region, also joined the visit.

He was optimistic about the new partnerships, and full of praise for the Royal Norfolk Show - something he hopes to reproduce in Ukraine when peace returns.

"For me, the Royal Norfolk Show is the greatest agricultural show that I have ever seen," he said. "I think your country does a good job for your farmers, for your citizens, because this field of agriculture is very important for the whole world.

"I think that all you do here, we can do this in Ukraine after the end of war, after our victory.

"Now, we have a war in our country, it is a terrible period, but I think after the end of war we together can do the same in Lviv region, an agricultural show like the Royal Norfolk Show."

Another Lviv delegate was businessman Mykola Kobetiak, co-founder and deputy director of Nova Food, which produces confectionery products used in ice cream manufacturing.

"I would like to thank you all for the kind invitation to be here," he said. "I am pleased to know that everyone is open to cooperation to work with Ukraine, and Ukrainian businessmen.

"While there is a war in Ukraine, Ukraine would not be able to overcome all the current challenges staying on its own.

"Having that support we are receiving is really important. Thanks to Norfolk County Council, we made lots of introductions to partners and organisations that I know will be useful. Later on the companies will share detailed propositions about what they are interested in, and we will take that forward."

Although Lviv is in western Ukraine, far from the frontline of the war with Russia, the region is still suffering from the impacts of the conflict, said Mr Vorko - including a rising population, missile threats and power cuts, sometimes for eight hours a day.

"However, despite all these challenges, Ukrainian people do live their normal life," he said.

"Kids go to school, people have to continue working. Everyone has to do their job. Soldiers are protecting their countries, councillors are setting regulations, teachers are teaching, and employers and businessmen have to pay taxes - but every person is a volunteer, from a child to an adult, they are doing whatever they can do to help Ukraine achieve the result we want."