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14 Aug 2022

Finding refuge in Ireland: Ukrainians love Kildare but miss home

Senan Hogan talks to Ukrainians at a coffee morning in Kildare town

Finding refuge in Ireland: Ukrainians love Kildare but miss home

Maryna Ishchenko, Nadiia Sobova and Nataliia Kukharchuk outside the Parish Centre in Kildare town. PHOTO: MARTIN CONNELLY

Ukrainian people fleeing the Russian invasion of their home country have now been over four months in the Kildare town area — but anxiously wait for the day they can return home.

A weekly coffee morning is held in the Parish Centre every Wednesday which is co-ordinated by South African native Michelle Nicol.

Michelle told the Leader that the weekly coffee morning helps the Ukrainians to stay in contact with each other and allows the local community to reach out and offer help. Members of the community have also organised fundraising cake sales as well as other initiatives to welcome the arrivals. Preparations are currently underway to organise a picnic on the Hill of Howth in coming weeks.

Nadiia Sobova arrived in Kildare town on March 5, less than two weeks after the war began in her native country.

She is staying with a host family in Kildangan and her daughter Anna, aged 11, is enrolled in a local primary school. She said: “My husband is still working in Kyiv as a driver.”

Nadiia has a connection with Kildare because her husband’s sister has been living in the area for the past 20 years.

Nataliia Kukharchuk is from the Vinnytsya region on the border between Ukraine and Moldova.

Nataliia’s godson and goddaughter were both enrolled in Kildare Town Community School when she arrived.

Nataliia recently managed to visit her home town but said she couldn’t sleep on one night because of sirens going off. Her elderly parents are still living in the area.

She said: “The Kildare area feels very safe and the people are so friendly. But we wait for the day when we can return home. Every day I cry because I want to go home. I check the news every day to see if there is any change.

“I have relatives in Moscow and they don’t think there is any problem in Ukraine because they are listening to Russian propaganda about the war.”

Maryna Ishchenko had family links to Kildare town as her sister came to work as a jockey in the late 1990s.

Maryna’s son Nazar, aged nine, is with her while her husband stayed behind to work in Ukraine.

Also at the coffee morning, and hoping to return home some day soon, was Viktoria Volovodenko, who was with her 13-month-old grand-daughter Alexandra. She is living with her daughter Anna in Kildare town.

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