Three refugees from Ukraine have thanked Andrew and Caroline Coleman, parishioners of Bandon Union, who welcomed them into their home, making their remarks days ahead of the first anniversary of the start of the conflict.
Lisa Fagan from Christian Aid writes:
Andrew and Caroline Coleman hosted Victoria and her son Vlad in their Bandon home from May until November last year. When the mother and son moved into a nearby apartment to get some additional living space, Tetianna moved in and is staying with the couple to the present.
Victoria, who comes from the central city of Kropyvnytskyi, paid tribute to Andrew and Caroline:
“I like Andrew’s family and their traditions. They know how to welcome guests by making parties and picnics. At first, my parents didn’t support me coming but after telling them about the peaceful situation here, they are praying for the kind Irish people who offered me a home.”
Tetianna, who comes from Kyiv, thanked the Colemans and added:
“I don’t feel alone and I am happy here. Irish people are very merry, always smiling and laughing. They are very hospitable, welcoming, helpful and open-hearted.”
Andrew, who works as Church and Community Officer at Christian Aid Ireland, spoke of his hopes for the future:
“Tetianna and Victoria are part of our family now. We are looking forward to visiting them in Ukraine when the war is over.”
Victoria, Vlad and Tetianna are among more than 6,000 Ukrainian refugees living in County Cork and among nearly 8 million people who have crossed Ukraine’s borders to reach safety. Another 5.5 million remain displaced within the country. Many initially abandoned their homes with only a few days’ worth of clothing and possessions. Across Ukraine, people have had to cope with the bombing of residential areas, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and a winter without reliable heat or electricity.
Working through local partner organisations, Christian Aid has reached around 800,000 people within Ukraine as well as Ukrainian refugees in Hungary and Romania. As well as providing frontline medical support and support to shelters housing displaced people, the charity has also distributed cash so that people have the money to pay for essentials and handed out grants to community groups to give them the freedom to decide for themselves what needs to be prioritised in their local area.