A BANTRY man currently living in Ukraine said he will do whatever is necessary to protect his family.
Eugene O’Sullivan, a 56-year-old from Drumsullivan in the Mealagh Valley, said he and his wife of 17 years, Ruslana, and their son Rustic (11) cannot leave the country because the borders are crammed with people and the airports have been bombed since Russia waged war on Ukraine last Thursday.
The West Cork man, who divides his time equally between Bantry – where he works as a welder and a metal fabricator – and a rural town five hours east of Kyiv, was due to return to Ireland at the end of April but he said the future is now uncertain.
‘I was given the offer, many times, by the Irish embassy, to get out in the event of war starting but I said I wasn’t going,’ said Eugene, who has chosen to remain in Ukraine to support his family.
‘It is the correct decision,’ according to Eugene, whose mother-in-law is a semi-invalid and ‘will not leave her house for anything.’
The Ukrainian government is currently arming its civilians with weapons, but as a foreigner Eugene has not yet been presented with a gun. He did, however, say he would take up arms if he or his family were put at risk.
‘I can take a lot of pressure,’ he added, ‘but if a gun is put to your head, that will tell you what you are made of.
‘The fighting is just 90 minutes to the east of us in the city of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine. If someone is shooting at me, or my family, I will shoot back.’
Eugene was speaking to The Southern Star from a place of relative safety because it is the cities that are experiencing the worst of the shelling and the shooting.
Rustic was by his father’s side during the interview. Rustic said he felt ‘safe’ with his family but wanted to tell his ‘very good friends’ – Patrick, Lucy, and Emma Harrington of Newtown in Bantry – that he hopes to see them soon.
Aside from the threat to life, Eugene said food and petrol supplies are running low. Supply routes have been cut off as there is a tailback of motorists and civilians – the length of Bantry to Cork – heading for the border, while, in the opposite direction, there is a Russian military convoy 60km-long rolling towards Kiev.
‘Shops are running out of food. Credit cards are not working. And there is no cash in the debit card machines.
‘If I had no cash I would be in dire straits.’
Two years of lockdown has changed society but Eugene said he, personally, would take Covid ‘any day of the week’ over the destruction of war.
PODCAST: The rise of West Corks film industry
Cape geansaí showcased the artistic talent of the island’s crafts people