Diary of a Ukrainian refugee: “Everything in Bucha will be rebuilt, but not people’s lives”

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Watching the news about the Russian bombings in my hometown of Bucha has made me feel many emotions over the past few days. I feel a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, then I feel endless anger and hatred.

But the strongest feeling is anguish and regret for those whose lives were lost. No God can return to us the young boys and girls, men and women and elderly civilians who were brutally tortured and killed by these dark non-humans. When I read what these “soldiers” did with our Ukrainian children in Irpin, Bucha, Hostomel, Vorzel, Borodyanka, Makariv… my heart cries. Innocent and peaceful people – our compatriots – were killed shamelessly and mercilessly.

In Ukraine, our people, our officials and our media call the Russian war forces “Orcs”, after the monsters of The Lord of the Rings.

I still don’t know if my friends and neighbors in Bucha are alive or dead. Today I finally contacted our neighbours’ son and he confirmed that his family was alive. It turns out that they moved to a village to be close to their loved ones. I was so happy to hear that.

I have been in Dublin with my two young daughters for just over a month now. We communicate with my husband, who stayed in Ukraine, every day. I show him the kids he misses a lot on FaceTime. It’s going well, so far.

Yet with each passing day I wonder more and more if it was the right decision to move as far away from our home in Bucha as possible and bring the children to Ireland. My daughters are perfectly happy here. They came to Ireland last Christmas to visit their grandfather and grandmother, who have lived here for 19 years, so it is very comfortable for them.

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Ukrainian refugees, Olena Ivannikova and her daughters Anna (2) and Maria (4) who now live in Ballbriggan, Co Dublin. Photo by Mark Condren

Ukrainian refugees, Olena Ivannikova and her daughters Anna (2) and Maria (4) who now live in Ballbriggan, Co Dublin. Photo by Mark Condren

But still, they miss their friends and their toys. My eldest daughter misses her kindergarten teachers and school friends. She started attending school here, where we were warmly welcomed. She likes him very much but the only thing is that she doesn’t speak English yet. Will my youngest daughter start school here? It’s so hard to predict what’s going to happen next. Will the war be over then? Will it be safe for our children? And what about our house in Bucha? Two weeks ago we discovered that the doors and windows had been smashed and it was a complete mess inside. I’m sure our stuff was stolen. How it is now, we don’t know.

Look for work

First I have to find a job here in Ireland and once I find it I will stay for another six months or maybe a year and then, who knows, maybe longer?

We applied for accommodation and it was very easy to get a PPS number for me and my daughters as well. It used to be that a work visa was needed to get a job in Ireland, but now I only need a PPS number to start working.

I contacted two recruitment companies and had an interview last week, but I haven’t found a job yet. I have to try more. I should also search the internet, I guess. And I need to improve my language skills.

I had visited Ireland nine times before we were forced to leave Ukraine in February and love everything about the way of life here. It is a unique country with a rich history, amazing culture and music including all the folklore and legends.

Many years ago my father told me that the Irish live in paradise – “they just don’t know it!” The nature of Ireland is very special. It’s quiet and peaceful and the people are very friendly and kind.

For now, however, my thoughts are with Bucha. We have to overcome these things somehow. We need to find everyone we can and continue to live in our towns, villages and cities. Everything will be restored and rebuilt, but not people’s lives.

In conversation with Katie Byrne

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