A UKRAINIAN woman who fled her war-ravaged country has been reunited with her husband in Timoleague where she’s still processing the trauma of what she saw before leaving, and the journey she endured to get here.
Oksana Smolov left her apartment at 3.30am on February 24th to seek shelter with a friend who lived nearby during one of the first bomb attacks on Kyiv.
She grabbed just her documents, a small backpack and her beloved dog Jameson – whose barking actually alerted her to the bombing – thinking she’d soon be home.
But two days later, when it was clear the city was under attack, she boarded a train with thousands of others for a 48-hour trip to Poland, with barely standing room.
The digital artist, who had her own business in Kyiv, said her eight-month-old Chihuahua Jameson helped her survive on the train which was so crammed her nose was pressed against the window the entire way.
‘I really thought I was going to die. Lots of times the train had to stop and turn off all the lights to avoid being bombed,’ she said. ‘Jameson, a gift from my husband, kept me sane and I held him all the way.’
With the help of a Polish family, she finally flew into Dublin last Thursday, where she was met by her husband Ihor who has worked in Staunton’s Foods for the past three years, and who, he said, have been a huge support.
Manager Peadar Murphy said they have also helped four other families who are being accommodated in Clonakilty, and have assisted others to get as far as Poland.
A chance encounter with Bernadette Walshe who lives in the village has been described as a ‘miracle’ by Oksana. Bernadette met her while putting her bins out and when she heard her story, she immediately offered to accommodate her and Jameson until the couple find a pet-friendly home as Ihor currently lives in shared accommodation.
But through the tears, they remain strong. ‘We are lucky, it is the people still in Ukraine who are the brave ones, and who have real problems,’ said Ihor.