A young Ukrainian woman was saved from the Russian invasion by an Irish church she volunteered with three years ago.
Leksandra Hromova, 23, and her mother Yuliia, 45, from Dnipro, now live in Dublin thanks to two Salvation Army officers.
The former management and economics student first came to Ireland in 2019 on a gap year to volunteer with the church and charity – one of the largest providers of homeless services in the capital.
Ms Hromova is again volunteering with the charity and working as a barista at her Hub Cafe on King’s Inns Street.
“I couldn’t bear to stay in Ukraine,” said Oleksandra, who has lived in Salvation Army accommodation in Dublin with her mother since March.
They endured a 30-hour journey by train and bus to the Polish border.
“The airport (in Dnipro) was destroyed, we lived not far from there; that’s what made me move. The airport was bombed a second time during rescue efforts,” she said.
“On the very first day of the war I woke up to explosions, there were four very loud ones and our windows were shaking.
“I was so scared. I was just sitting in the hallway of my apartment, the sirens went off and I decided I had to leave.
Captains Tim and Charlotte Lennox described their concern for Ms Hromova and a second student Alisa, 22, who also worked in the church’s family centers – but remained in Ukraine.
“We stayed in touch the whole time,” he said.
“The first thing we did was call them both to find out what was going on. We said to ourselves quite early on, “if you need to go out, just know that there is a place you can come”.
“They are like our family and I couldn’t get rid of them for days, I was worried sick.
“It took them 36 hours to get to Poland, so we went ahead and booked a flight for them. We managed to sort everything out in 72 hours.
“Bringing Oleksandra here was not part of our homeless or refugee housing projects, it was just to help another church member at the most difficult time of her life.”
Oleksandra said without their help she and her mother would not have been able to leave Ukraine, but she looks forward to the day when she can return.
“I love Dublin but I don’t want to stay here for 10 years. I really want to go home before the new year, but now I’m not sure. I’m always afraid that when I come back, I won’t feel safe,” she said.