“We’ve taken a leap of faith and we’re enjoying it,” says the Kildare couple, who host Ukrainians

When retired GPs Joe and Ester Crilly offered to share their home with a Ukrainian refugee couple, “they didn’t know what to expect”.

We had a house with space, a tragedy happened in Europe, as a nation we helped and that’s how we were able to help,” said Dr. Crilly, who met his wife when they were studying medicine at Trinity College, Dublin in the 1970s.

“It just didn’t feel right to keep a house for two of us when we could fit two more people — and it all worked out fine.”

dr and Mrs. Crilly are 72 and 71 years old respectively. Their house guests, Oksana and Oleksandr, who joined them in September at their home in Athgarvan, Co Kildare, are in their 40s.

While the two couples don’t speak each other’s language, the refugees who fled the war in Ukraine are now learning English and Google Translate helps chat over dinner.

Ms Crilly, who said she and her husband have been indulging their love of sailing after retiring from practicing at Newbridge, explained: “I said to Joe if we can share a boat with people who sail, we certainly can do this household.

“I say take life as it comes and we’re happy to be a support. We’ve taken a leap of faith and we’re enjoying it. I would definitely say it has enriched our lives and we would encourage people to do the same.”

Since being matched with their house guests by Helping Irish Hosts (HIH), which has hosted 1,100 Ukrainians with more than 400 families here, the Crillys have opened their home, sharing their circle of friends and a network of support in Newbridge.

“Joe and I honestly don’t feel like we’ve done more than take that first leap to agreeing to share our home with Oksana and Oleksandr. You made it easy for us. Quiet resilience is embedded in her as we get to know her,” Ms. Crilly said.

She introduced Oksana to swimming in the section of the Liffey that flows through Newbridge and her guest also helped her with the work of Tidy Towns.

Oksana and Oleksandr attend the weekly English classes at Newbridge Parish Center organized by Sr. Eileen and run by retired teachers on a volunteer basis.

Oleksandr makes with Dr. Crilly does some gardening, but the couples also give each other space.

Since getting a job at a nearby Lidl warehouse, the Ukrainian couple has been up at 6:30am and out the door by 8am to cycle across the Curragh.

Ms Crilly said: “Oksana is a whiz kid in the kitchen – it keeps me busy and we enjoy cooking together, and Oksana sang Ukrainian folk songs by the fire after helping the family make Christmas puddings.”

Troubling news followed the couple to Ireland when Oleksandr’s father died after being hit by shrapnel in Ukraine.

HIH, whose website is helpirishhosts.com, was founded by a group of hosts working with displaced people and Irish-based Ukrainians to get people into Irish homes quickly and give them a soft landing while avoiding direct supplies and long-term hotel accommodation will.

Ms Crilly said if people were interested: “Making that leap isn’t as big as you might think and it may turn out to be everyone very happy – I actually think of people who have been my patients, that live alone, who might even enjoy it”.

With the help of Google Translate, Oksana explained how they lived in a small town in the Kharkiv region with all their relatives nearby. She worked in a factory that produced dairy products, and Oleksandr worked on the railway.

“There is no doubt that what we like most about Ireland is the people,” she said. “You are fantastic – so open, positive, always willing to help. Their activity in the social field and their sociability is fascinating.”

Oksana and Oleksandr, who had never been outside of Ukraine before their city was occupied by Russian troops, traveled here separately, and it was almost two months before “we met in this blessed land.”

“On the way, we could take only the most necessary things and documents,” said Oksana. “As a reminder of our homeland, we only have photos in our phones.

“We were fortunate to have a genuine Irish family host us in their cozy home. We spend a lot of time together. I personally like to cook dinner with Ester. Oleksandr enjoys watching football matches on TV with Joe.

“Our Irish family really enjoyed my cabbage dishes. There was borscht and beetroot salad with garlic and mayonnaise, and for Christmas I have already promised to make stuffed cabbage, a traditional Ukrainian dish.”

Oksana is very relieved that her daughter Oltha is also in Ireland and that she and her dog Thor will be coming to the Crillys for Christmas.

“We hope that the war in Ukraine will end soon,” said Oksana. “We will return to our homes and jobs. Ukraine will need our hands to restore it to be even better than before the attack.”

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/we-took-a-leap-of-faith-and-were-enjoying-it-say-kildare-couple-hosting-ukrainians-42192264.html “We’ve taken a leap of faith and we’re enjoying it,” says the Kildare couple, who host Ukrainians

Fry Electronics Team

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