Sligo refugee family shows resources are stretched


Seamstress Tetyana Gryshchenko’s small rented flat in Co Sligo epitomizes the chaos of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where ten family members who fled to Ireland are now forced to live with her.

There are 13 people in total in their two bedroom house, with some of the adults sleeping on a sofa and some of the children sleeping on a mat.

Along with Tetyana, her husband Taras Shkoruta and daughter Khrystyna, the four women and six children have to share a bathroom and a tiny kitchen where meals like seven liters of soup are prepared. The boiler to heat the water is turned on twice a day and the children who are now in local schools are being asked to ‘get ready quickly’.

There they sit at a small table and on the other side of the wall there is a television on which they watch the latest horrific reports about the war.

Tetyana’s ironing board sits alongside four sewing machines, balls of yarn, clothes and scribbled notes. Here she likes to sew as a pastime, but now her extended family sleeps and eats in her living room – amid the state’s uncertainty about housing.

“This moment is not easy, 13 people in a small apartment is difficult. It’s hard to sleep on the floor, eat and study after school and sleep on the floor. My husband has to buy food for everyone after work,” she said.

It has been over a month since she opened her home for a temporary measure.

“We thought maybe a week out of it or two weeks, no problem, but after the second week it became a problem. It’s a very big problem now,” said Tetyana, who has lived in Co Sligo for over 20 years.

The 10 refugees arrived in the first week of March before department staff could greet them at Dublin airport or ports.

They made their way to Co Sligo where Tetyana made sure the children – Dmytro (4), Illia (7), Nelya (12), Oleksandr (15), Andriy (17) and Mykyta (17) – in Schools were enrolled in the city.

They had been offered accommodation in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim but declined as there was no transport for the children’s schools. They were also offered a place in a hostel in Strandhill which was not suitable.

“Children are already attending local schools and colleges. When families have to move, it means another change of environment, new people. It will be another stress for children who do not understand why they were brought home from their father’s house, for which they sometimes cry a lot,” Tetyana said.

Independent TD Marc MacSharry said the situation was “unresolved” two months after the invasion.

“Now that we’re under the international gaze, we seem poised to push the boat outward exponentially. We should have done this sooner for ourselves and others,” he said.

“Everyone in Ireland has been and wants to help Ukrainian people run for their lives effectively, but we must accept and be aware that our infrastructure does not support the level of generosity that we may wish to expand. Anything else is reckless and irresponsible.”

For Tetyana, she takes comfort in the fact that her family is safe with her in Ireland. While the pain of Vladimir Putin’s war is clear, she tries to stay strong for them.

“Every day we watch the Ukrainian news, one day we look at the Russian news to see what this crazy, crazy man is saying. The situation is very bad. But on February 24th I stopped crying [when the invasion began] because it’s better to just do things. We hope that our housing problems will change for the better.”

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said that one could “not comment on individual cases”.

He said more than 17,000 people have been accommodated so far.

“In circumstances where individuals have established connections locally, we try to accommodate them locally. Due to the lack of accommodation and the nature of these emergency responses, it is not always possible to find accommodation locally.” Sligo refugee family shows resources are stretched

Fry Electronics Team

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