Having been adopted from an orphanage in Belarus as a young girl, Anna Gabriel has overcome enormous challenges to recently graduate from CIT, writes Kieran O’Mahony
WHEN U2 took to the stage in Croke Park last summer for the Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour, one Bandon girl was sure of her spot in the crowd.
That’s because Anna Gabriel’s godmother is none other than Bono’s wife, Ali Hewson.
‘I wouldn’t see her that often, but when U2 are playing in Ireland, she would be kind enough to give me tickets for the show. Last July my dad Robert and myself were given tickets and we got to meet Ali and Bono after the concert,’ Anna told The Southern Star.
‘Ali is a wonderful woman who always remembers my birthdays.’
Anna’s story has been well documented since she was adopted by Bandon couple Robert and Helen Gabriel in 1996 from an orphanage in Minsk, Belarus. Adi Roche and her Chernobyl Children International (CCI) charity helped to co-ordinate the move, and she was very supportive of Anna all along the way.
‘Adi would be a very good friend to me too, and she’s like my second godmother – she’s a fabulous woman. I see her more regularly because she’s in Cork.’
Anna was born completely deaf with an ear deformity and no ear canals, but after a few years, she was given a headband that sits behind her ear which is called a bone conductor, and that’s how she is able to hear.
‘It’s been 22 years since I was adopted by Robert and Helen, and it seems like a lifetime ago. I was only three-and-a-half years old when I moved to Bandon, so I really don’t have any memories of it [Belarus]. I didn’t have Russian either, so it was easy for me to pick up the English language.’
Because of a deformity in her legs, Anna was unable to walk, and used a wheelchair right up until her first year in Coláiste na Toirbhirte.
‘Both my parents were keen to see me walk and we were eventually referred to an orthopaedic surgeon in Cork by the name of Dr Andries de Bont,’ she explained.
Dr de Bont fitted Anna with two artificial legs and she hasn’t looked back since.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in 2016, Anna appeared on The Late Late Show with both Adi and Ali but it wasn’t her first appearance on the show, having been on it, too, when she was a child.
‘We got to meet Ryan Tubridy which was great too.’
It’s been a challenging but rewarding journey for 25-year-old Anna whose positivity and optimism is remarkable.
Despite what life has thrown at her, she has soldiered on and most recently she was conferred as a Member of Accounting Technicians Ireland after receiving an accounting technician diploma. She had studied the course in the evenings at CIT.
‘Robert and Helen were proud as punch,’ added Anna, who works with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation in Lauragh, outside Bandon .
Anna had been working there four years after completing a work placement there as part of her previous CIT course in business administration.
‘I always had a fierce interest in accounts, but I never really pursued that career. It was only at work that they suggested I could study to become an accounting technician by night and work by day, and I more or less got a full-time position with them.’