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We are delighted to welcome a Ukrainian Journalist to The Carrigdhoun

We are delighted to welcome a new columnist to The Carrigdhoun Newspaper. Maryna Kovalenko is a Ukrainian journalist who had been working in a liberal, Western-looking newspaper, Kommersant, in Moscow. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Maryna had to flee and has since arrived in Carrigaline where she is living with Jan & Paul Foster.

Here, Maryna tells us her story to date.


Until a month ago, I could not even imagine that I, with a heavy heart, would be sharing my own story with the people of South Cork, while being in the picturesque town of Carrigaline. Looking back, I can say that I had a happy life.


I was surrounded by people close to me, I was finishing my studies at a prestigious university and did what I loved — international journalism. I had many plans for the future, but all of them, like my usual life, collapsed overnight with the start of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, which can only be called a tragedy for all Ukrainian and Russian people.


I flew to Ireland in the middle of March, just on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. I was touched to see that during the celebrations, the Ukrainian flag flew alongside the Irish tricolor. Similarly, I was struck by the fact that in almost every Irish town you can see announcements for humanitarian aid.


I flew in through Dublin airport, where, in addition to myself, there was also a family and a man from Kyiv. We were greeted with great cordiality and, to my surprise, the formalities were settled in less than an hour. Until the last moment, I had no idea where I would live in Ireland. It turned out that there are many people who are ready to help. Among such are the charming family of Paul and Jan Foster, living in Carrigaline, who kindly offered me shelter. I was introduced to them by my dear friends from the USA.


My arrival in Ireland was preceded by a long journey. The circumstances of my life were such that at the time of the invasion I was in Moscow, while my parents and my six-year-old sister were in Ukraine. Ironically, I studied international relations at a Russian university, combining it with the work of a journalist in a business newspaper.


I immediately realized that as a Ukrainian I no longer had a place in Russia. That’s why I bought a ticket to Kazakhstan, where my friends sheltered me for a few days. Already there, I chose Ireland as my final destination, as I considered that with the knowledge of English, it would be easier for me to adapt and find a job.


Pic: Siobhán Russell

I seriously feared that I would not be able to leave Russia, since some local media began to report on the facts of the persecution of my compatriots. Ukrainians, mostly men, were detained on far-fetched pretexts at the borders. They were also forced to unblock their cell phones, so that Russians could read their messages.


Independent journalists were also at high risk. The Russian authorities effectively imposed military censorship, forcing the closure of the last independent media outlets that functioned in the country. Many journalists I know, fearing persecution, had to leave the country. Although I was taken away for additional checks at passport control at an airport in Moscow, they let me out of Russia.


Those few days during war spent in Russia became a nightmare for me. I expected that the response to this senseless war, launched under the absurd pretext of "denazification" of Ukraine, would be mass protests by Russians. Disappointingly, rallies were few in number, and most Russians reacted to the atrocities committed by their government with either indifference or support.


People there smiled as they walked the streets, fireworks were set off in some areas of Moscow, while Ukrainians were dying. Some of my acquaintances in Russia said that they adhere to a "neutral" position. It was clear to me that by their inaction they only legitimize the actions of the Russian authorities. A strong blow for my family was that our relatives (natives of Ukraine living in Russia) not only supported the war, but also had the audacity to mock the situation in which the Ukrainians found themselves.


I experienced all this, watching in absentia how Russian bombs were flattening the streets of my native city. Located northeast of Kyiv, Chernihiv is strategically important, because it opens one of the key routs to the Ukrainian capital. To date, the city is besieged by Russians. The humanitarian situation in it cannot be described otherwise than as a catastrophe. There is no power, almost no heat, and drinking water is in short supply.


City services pump out water using generators and deliver it to local residents and critical infrastructure facilities. Some pharmacies and grocery stores continue to operate despite the high risks. Initially people stood in lines for bread, but after Russians opened fire on those queues, which resulted in dozens of deaths, everyone is afraid to do so.


Thousands of people have already been evacuated from Chernihiv — to neighboring regions or to the West. My family made a decision to stay in the city to protect it and help the locals. My father, who worked as a lawyer before the war, joined the ranks of the city's defenders. Together with my uncle, he patrols the city with weapons in his hands, pulls people out from under the rubble and takes the wounded to hospitals. My mother takes care of the animals abandoned by their owners to the best of her ability. Together with my sister, they feed homeless dogs and cats. The neighbors also gave my family a parrot.


My parents live in conditions where the city is burning around them and the noise of aircraft or shelling is constantly heard. The war has already taken the life of my father's best friend and several of our family acquaintances. What my parents tell me is often terrifying. There are not enough doctors in hospitals to treat the wounded, and those who are left fall down from fatigue. My father saw with his own eyes how an enemy aircraft was on fire and how people were burned alive in an apartment building.


Even in such critical conditions, my parents remain optimistic. They are doing everything they can to save the city. In turn, I decided that the best thing I could do was to try to continue my work as a journalist, which is in demand now more than ever.


Writing for The Carrigdhoun Newspaper, I consider myself fortunate to have been given the opportunity to share my story, their story and the reality of living in a war-torn Ukraine.


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