When Max Khrusin and his fiancee Dasha Kolmykova took shelter from the bombs that rained down on their hometown of Kharkiv, they thought they were going to die.
since the beginning of Russian invasion of Ukraine On February 24, Kharkiv, just 24 km from the Russian border, was one of the hardest hit areas. Many parts of the city, which is home to around 1.4 million people, were reduced to rubble.
Max (32) lived with his mother in Kharkiv and Dasha (25) lived with her grandmother while their parents lived in another part of the city.
After the war broke out, the Ukrainian government said that all men between the ages of 18 and 60 must enlist in the army to fight against the Russians. Dasha’s father enlisted in the military, but Max could not do this because of a disability.
After two weeks of bombing, Max and Dasha’s families begged them to leave Ukraine in search of safety and a better future. As they took refuge in an air raid shelter for another night, they saw a message from a couple in Ireland.
Dennis and Mary Clare Rooney are originally from Scotland but now live in Buncrana, Co. Donegal, an area with which they have close family ties.
Dismayed by the horror in Ukraine, the couple, who watched the news every night, decided to post a message online offering to host refugees in their home.
Max read the message in Kharkiv and responded by telling Dennis and Mary Clare they wanted to escape the war and feared they had “just been left alone to die”.
His message set off a chain of events that led to an arduous five-day journey to Ireland.
On March 15, the couple quickly packed up and said an emotional goodbye to their families and their beloved cat and dog. However, Dasha remained unsure of what they were doing.
“I couldn’t believe that there were such kind people who would help us in this way, but we had to leave our country,” she said.
The couple made their way to Kharkiv’s main railway station and boarded a train, ultimately reaching the city of Uzhgorod in western Ukraine, from where they could cross the border into Slovakia.
“When we got on the train, there were shots and bombings everywhere,” Dasha said. “We were on the train for 34 hours as some stations were being bombed or shelled, so we either stood for several hours or bypassed them.”
When they finally reached Uzhhorod, they were denied crossing the border because Max did not have the necessary papers to prove his disability and was told he would have to undergo a medical examination. The couple could not enter Slovakia and had no place to stay.
“Since it was already night, we had to go to the train station to spend the night there. It was one of the worst days ever. It was very cold at the train station, like never before in my life. We covered ourselves with everything we could, but it didn’t help,” Dasha said.
“There were so many people there, many were crying. I prayed day and night.
“In the end he got a certificate and we went to the border. We stood in line for eight hours in the terrible cold. I was cold, I didn’t realize what was going on, and I cried sometimes and prayed all the time.”
Eventually, Max and Dasha were able to cross the Slovakian border and travel to Kosice Airport, where Dennis and Mary Clare had paid for a hotel stay for them. The following day, March 20, they flew to Dublin where the couple waited to meet them.
Neither Max nor Dasha had ever been on a plane before.
“It still felt like a dream, but I started believing it more once we were on the plane,” Dasha said.
In Ukraine, Max and Dasha both had successful careers. They are now working to improve their English and hope to find work in Ireland that will allow them to send money back to their families.
They are very grateful for the support they have received from the people of Ireland.
“Dennis and Mary Clare are very kind and very good to us, we are so grateful for everything they have done for us. They often took us to the different beaches in Donegal, it’s really beautiful,” said Dasha.
“Now I feel safe and I’m no longer afraid of the bombs.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/from-bomb-shelters-to-beaches-how-an-act-of-kindness-from-a-couple-in-ireland-gave-young-ukrainians-a-chance-to-escape-the-war-41538499.html From bomb shelters to beaches: how a couple’s kindness in Ireland gave young Ukrainians a chance to escape the war