Writes Leo McMahon
Amidst all the terror and trauma of the war in Ukraine, it’s good to report on a happy reunion and birthday celebration in Co. Cork recently for one family, made possible with the help of South Cork based charity Greater Chernobyl Cause (GCC) and others.
Over the June bank holiday weekend, manager of a small logistics firm Vadym Isakova who supervises the import and export of essential goods in and out of Ukraine, was granted a two day permit to travel to Ireland to see his wife Anna and sons Nikolay (11) and Nikyta (4) for the first time in many weeks.
The children got a lovely surprise when their father, who arrived by coach from Dublin Airport, entered a café in the city docklands. There were hugs all round but better was to come.
In order to have quality time on their own, GCC had arranged that the family be treated to bed and breakfast and dinner in the Cork International Hotel near the airport where they were treated royally with a cake and presents for birthday boy that weekend, Nikolay and his brother Nikyta.
‘We feel extra lucky and are so grateful. It was such a lovely present’, said Anna who got the opportunity to walk around the city with the family and really enjoyed the hotel where wonderful hospitality was provided by Carmel Lonergan, Aaron Mansworth and staff. On bank holiday Monday, Vadym bade farewell to his family and travelled home via a coach to and flight from Dublin to Bucharest.
Meeting the family for a snack in Dunnes Store, Cork on bank holiday Monday, Anna, who has a good command of English, told The Carrigdhoun Newspaper how the war that broke out on February 24th, has impacted.
Arrived in Ireland
‘I came to Ireland on May 21st with my two sons. We lived on the ninth floor of an apartment block in our beautiful city of Odessa but had to leave our home because of explosions which awoke us. We didn’t think the war would come that far to our city from the east and were so frightened that that my husband and I, our two boys and our cat got into the car and went to western Ukraine in the hope that Russia wouldn’t attack that region because there is a border close by with the European Union.
‘On the road west, we encountered huge traffic jams and other problems such as a shortage of fuel. After we finally reached the west of our country at Kaments-Podolsky, it was late at night and there were hundreds of people from all regions of Ukraine,’ said Anna.
‘There no were no hotels or places to rent. Everything was full, it was very cold and we were sitting in our car which had no fuel with our children We didn’t know how we would spend the night but people living there started to open their houses and let us, as unknown persons stay in their homes. We spent about a week in western Ukraine but soon realised that even the place we were staying in, wouldn’t be free from attack. Sirens were sounding throughout the day and the children were frightened."
‘We made a decision to cross the border into Moldova. My husband Vadym went home with our cat and I, along with our kids, left Ukraine. We reached the village of Moreni in Moldova and once again a family opened their home to us. While staying there for a few days we made a plan. We didn’t want to go far away because all the time we were hoping the war would end soon and that we would be back home soon. But when we realised this was not going to happen, I found on the internet that people from Hungary had an apartment for Ukrainian families.
‘It was in a beautiful place near the town of Balatonfured. We met nice people who became good friends forever because they opened their hearts and their home. Not only did they accept us, they gave us any help we required. I was able to collect my thoughts there and decide what to do,’ said Anna."
‘We spent one and a half months in Hungary but unfortunately the government, unlike many of its people, didn’t give any financial support. The Hungarians we met offered to provide kindergarten and school but the language was very difficult for us and we couldn’t communicate in English because most of the people there studied German instead."
‘Since it wasn’t possible to have normal education, we decided it would be easier to go to a country where English is spoken. We chose Ireland because it’s not as far as the USA and Canada and had offered support to Ukraine with financial support and accommodation.’
Anna and her children flew into Dublin from Budapest on May 21st and initially stayed with hundreds of other refugees, including a friend Sacha Alexandra from Odessa, in a huge meeting room of the City West Hotel, Co Dublin which had been converted into emergency accommodation before moving two days later to Quality Hotel, Redbarn, Youghal where over 550 fellow Ukrainians are currently staying.
‘We are living in very good conditions in our hotel at Redbarn, we have everything we need and honestly I didn’t expect this. The payments are enough for what we need for food etc.
‘My husband works for a small logistics company engaged in the transportation of imported and exported goods in containers. Goods had been coming into the port of Odessa where my husband and others were able to load their container trucks for distribution in Ukraine. Now however, ports in the country are blockaded and with the need to import food etc and export products such as grain, the nearest Black Sea port is Constanta in Romania.
‘It is very difficult at the moment because there is hardly any fuel in Ukraine. There have been very big traffic jams on the borders and truck drivers stuck for several days. However, my husband is currently still able to work from Constanta to Ukraine and back.
Anna concluded by saying how very thankful she and her compatriots are to the Irish government and the Irish people who have been so kind and friendly, especially the staff of the Quality Hotel near Youghal, Tom from Carrigaline and his colleagues in GCC. ‘However, almost everyone wants to go home when the war ends so that we can rebuild our lives and I’m just hoping we will be back in Odessa by New Year’s Eve.’