After fleeing Kyiv with her four-year-old daughter two months ago following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Olha Khoroshevska knows better than anyone what Ukrainian refugees need when they first arrive in Ireland. time.
Ms Khoroshevska, who had previously lived in Dublin for two years, has taken up volunteering to help other Ukrainians through the difficult period after arriving in Ireland, especially for those who do not speak English.
On Friday, she is one of many volunteers from the group Ukrainian Action in Ireland helping to set up a community center in the storage warehouse at the Vicar Street concert hall which is due to open shortly.
The center has eight tents where different support services will be provided, such as English lessons, advice on how to access state services, as well as a play area for children.
The plan is for the space to serve as a meeting place for Ukrainians, with a dozen picnic tables laid out on the floor of the large warehouse and a coffee dock donated by Bewleys cafe.
The building was previously used to store equipment for the adjoining concert hall, but was gutted to accommodate the community space.
Harry Crosbie, owner of Vicar Street, said the artists had agreed to store the material off-site in temporary containers and donate the warehouse to the Irish Red Cross and Ukrainian volunteers.
“The staff and all the artists that perform here have all come together, we just felt we had to make a small contribution because what’s happening is shocking,” he said.
The warehouse is located next to the concert hall with a large Red Cross sign marking the entrance.
Ms Khoroshevska said that for most Ukrainians arriving in Ireland, the lack of English “is the number one issue to be resolved.
“I have no job at the moment as my daughter is very small and it is really difficult in Ireland to have lessons after school and I am the only parent and she needs a lot of my attention” , she said. “I know that volunteering helps me a lot because I help other people. »
Back to Kyiv
Ms Khoroshevska fled Kyiv with her daughter in mid-March, making a three-day trip to Lviv where they stayed for a week before heading to Slovakia and then Ireland.
Her daughter, who will be five in two weeks, misses her father “dearly” because he stayed in Kyiv, she said.
The toddler “loves Dublin”, but even in Ireland there are reminders of the conflict in Ukraine, such as when she hears a helicopter overhead, her mother said. “The only thing she’s still afraid of [of] is helicopters, every time she asks ‘are they good, are they protecting us?’ And I say ‘yes,’” Ms Khoroshevska said.
Ielizaveta Karamushka, another Ukrainian volunteer who has lived in Dublin for nearly nine years, said she hopes the Vicar Street site will become a “cultural space” for the Ukrainian community.
The group wanted to provide a “safe space” where Ukrainians new to Ireland could come to socialize and be helped to integrate into Irish society, she said.
“We want maybe one day or two days a week to make it a kind of cultural space where Ukrainians can really show some of their culture to other Irish people,” she said.
“We are a big country. It’s not just about war, or at least we want it to not just be about war, because there’s a lot to show,” she said.