JUST one week ago, the idea of moving from their home on the outskirts of Kyiv to Castletownbere wasn’t something the Petrovskyy family were even considering.
But now 79-year-old Adam Petrovskyy and his 80-year-old wife Halyna along with their 45-year-old daughter Angelina, and her two children Hlib (15) and Diana (6) are grateful for the safety it’s providing them.
The couple’s niece Halyna Andreychuk has lived in Castletownbere for the past 11 years, and she helped secure their safe passage to West Cork.
She explained how this is her relatives’ second time to face such upheaval. ‘They lived in the east of the country and had to drop everything and relocate during the troubles of 2014. How many times in one lifetime can you do that?’ she asked. Angelina had first moved from Kyiv city centre to live with her parents in their home 50km away, where they hoped they’d be safe.
‘But by last Tuesday they knew they had to get out of the country. They had a driver lined up to take them to the Polish border, but he let them down at the last minute. Through connections they got spaces on a minibus and people I know took them in for three nights when they reached Poland,’ said Halyna.
From there they travelled on the ‘Safe Harbour for Ukraine’ bus which delivered humanitarian aid on St Patrick’s Day before returning to Cork with 32 refugees. She described their reunion as ‘very emotional.’
Halyna, a mum-of-two, lived in Mallow when she came to Ireland 17 years ago, and through connections there, was offered a house in Kinsale for her relatives.
‘But then a local family, Colman and Hannah O’Sullivan, offered a house just 5km from me in Eyeries which was absolutely perfect. When they first arrived here the fire was lighting, there was a Ukrainian channel on the TV, and bikes had been left for the children,’ she said.
She is now helping her relatives with practical things like enrolling the children in local schools. Her own parents are still in Ukraine, in a region where they feel ‘relatively safe’.
‘I talk to my mother at least two or three times a day. Now that her brother is here, she’d like to come too. Only eight days ago my relatives never imagined they’d be in Castletownbere, so we don’t know what will happen next.’