Ukrainian student Tanya Tsiuriupa sometimes feels caught between two lives. On the one hand she enjoys the tranquility of the picturesque town of Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. On the other hand, her heart is still beating in Ukraine, where a bomb was dropped near her home a few days ago.
It’s war and my mother stayed in our town and all my friends are there. It’s not easy for her. But in other ways, I worry about other issues. I worry about my English, about finding a job, and then my mother says to me, ‘Oh, another bomb fell near our house.’ It’s not easy for me sometimes,” she said.
She’s from a town called Horlivka in the Donbass region, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014, so she’s been through eight years of war. Tanya (24) came to Ireland almost two months ago and has been living with Maureen and Cormac Hassett for three weeks. She was studying history and psychology when the invasion took place and her mother spent a year’s salary on her plane ticket to Ireland.
She loves Irish culture, parks and wildlife and has already visited “every museum in Dublin” and can’t believe they are all free unlike in Ukraine. “I really like the Irish nature. I’ve been to Phoenix Park and have a lot of beautiful photos,” she said.
“My mental health is much better when I came to Ireland because I lived in an apartment with my mother and we had our issues.”
Her domestic situation is complicated as she said her mother “wants to become Russian” and decided to stay. She thinks Enniskerry is a “really pretty village” and loves to visit Bray so she can go for a walk by the sea. Today around 60 Ukrainians live in and around the picture-perfect town and around 900 in the district of Wicklow.
It’s hard to imagine a place more at odds with war-torn Ukraine than the stunning city of Enniskerry. As proof of the difference a year makes, this time it was 12 months ago on the set of the Disney film Disenchanted.
For Cormac Hassett, the town’s veterinarian, welcoming Tanya into her family home was an easy decision. He and his wife Maureen have two sons aged 22 and 24. Having a young woman with them brings a new element into their home.
“A friend of a friend contacted us and said Tanya needed a place to stay and we were like, ‘Great, send her over,'” he said.
He believes that expectations for refugees fleeing their country can be quite low, so “anything you give them is a bonus”.
“There are no difficulties with that – it is all positive. When you take someone from the first world, their expectations can be much higher,” he said.
“We’re careful not to turn on the news, it’s not up to us to broadcast that in the house. And every once in a while you would see Tanya very upset and you knew something had happened. And when you see the news, you think, ‘Thank God we did something’.”
The city has gone out of its way to extend the hand of friendship to its new visitors through the volunteer group Enniskerry Welcomes. It is spearheaded by Wicklow County Council member Melanie Corrigan, who said the new visitors “have so much to add to our community”. “If they need help with paperwork or applications, we can support them. Or if they need new gear or boots, we’ll help them. There should be no barriers for them to get involved in the community,” she said.
Locals have organized coffee mornings, Fáilte Isteach English courses, walking groups, mother-child sessions and even Irish dancing classes. A number of Ukrainians have been accommodated at the nearby Summerhill Hotel and other sites are being prepared for a further influx this summer. The local sports club is planning a barbecue this summer to give them a warm welcome. The city has also put together a “Welcome Guide” for refugees.
Teacher Carmel Kavanagh volunteers at Fáilte Isteach’s English class on Tuesday evenings. “It’s more relaxed at the moment. So far it’s been just talking and generally welcoming them to the city, asking them about themselves. It’s like a meet and greet,” she said.
They now try to make more structured classes when they start with the different modules “just to see their standard”. “We have to recognize that these people are very vulnerable but are so eager to learn. They react really well and soak up everything. It’s great to be able to make a difference and it brings the people who live here together. They just want to help and get in touch,” she said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/i-love-ireland-but-its-not-easy-when-there-is-a-war-back-home-and-my-mums-there-41672937.html “I love Ireland, but it’s not easy when there’s a war at home and my mother is there”