An Irishman living in Ukraine has spoken about the long and frightening journey his family has made to safety in recent days.
om O’Callaghan, who hails from Co Kerry, has lived in Kyiv for five years with his wife Anna and their two children.
He left Kyiv with his family and Anna’s aunt last Thursday when the Russian invasion began.
Mr O’Callaghan said they were playing to move west Ukraine for a short time, but when the shelling began at 5 a.m. Thursday morning, their only option was to flee to the border.
“We expected the worst but hoped for the best. We never thought it would be as big as it was, to be honest,” he said.
“Blows could be heard in the distance and we had jets flying low overhead as we took off. It was essentially a parking lot leaving Kyiv. It took us a few hours for the first few kilometers.”
Mr O’Callaghan said their children had been “remarkably resilient” and that the whole family had shown incredible composure since the evacuation began.
“Even the morning it happened you’d be surprised if all of this is going on and you can hear stuff in the distance at how calm you are.
“It was actually a strange kind of calm.”
There were several routes from Ukraine and unfortunately the family took one of the slowest on the Polish border near Liviv.
The 530km journey to Liviv took 20 hours and Mr O’Callaghan said there were “nervous moments along the way” when reports came in that towns they passed were being attacked by Russian forces.
On Saturday morning, the family finally reached the border crossing queue in Budomezh.
However, the line was 12 kilometers long and moving extremely slowly, and the family did not reach border control until 52 hours later on Monday afternoon.
“Sometimes you would do a kilometer every four hours, and then on some stretches you could maybe do 200 meters in two hours.
“With your GPS, you knew where the border crossing was, but you had no idea what was happening in front of you.”
Mr O’Callaghan said while there was a “row of cars that you can’t imagine” there was also a definite “sense of community” and anyone trying to skip the line was blocked by other honest onlookers.
“The really strange thing was the people going to the border. There were people who drove past us on their scooters with their suitcases and walked the last 10 kilometers to the border.”
After passing through Poland, Mr O’Callaghan and his family reached relatives living near Hanover in Germany in the early hours of Tuesday.
He said he “slept great” last night but the family did not have a chance to consider when it will be possible for them to return home.
Mr. O’Callaghan works at Enterprise Ireland in Kyiv and now he is focused on helping the people who are still in Ukraine.
“You feel safe but also kind of helpless… I’ve been on the phone with other people who have left and we were lucky to get out – both Ukrainians and expats and now we’re on the phone all day.
“We’re trying to figure out what we can do from there because there’s a lot more we can do from here than if we were stuck in Ukraine. It depends on how we can help now from this point of the border.”
He added that the people of Ukraine are “fighting a bloody good fight right now” and EU member states should help them in any way they can.
“They are fighting for their homeland. They fight for their existence.
“We consider ourselves lucky, but at the same time we know who we left behind and are trying to figure out how and where we can help from here.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/you-had-no-idea-what-was-going-on-up-ahead-kerry-native-and-family-travelled-five-days-through-ukraine-to-reach-safety-41405999.html “You had no idea what was going on before you” – Kerry native and his family traveled across Ukraine for five days to escape