FORMER Latvian police officer Diana Bucko handed in her gun to follow her calling of greeting people at the Cork International Hotel where she works as a receptionist.
Diana, aged 37, moved to Cork 12 years ago in search of a better life for her and her son Artyom.
Artyom was just a one-year-old when Diana left her job as a police officer in Latvia and moved to Ireland to see if she could make a living in Cork.
“There was a recession in 2008, it was horrible, I know Ireland had one too, but it was much worse in Latvia.”
Since moving to Ireland, Diana worked in administration in a factory, in a wholesale warehouse, as a pilates instructor and also spent some time studying at the College of Commerce.
“The original plan was to become a Garda, so I did level five and six in Police and Security Studies at the Cork College of Commerce, but my son was too young and I couldn’t leave him to go to Templemore for six months. My mother was going to come over and stay with him but that didn’t work out.”
After completing the course, Diana did a certificate in reception studies and asked her tutor what he thought of her becoming a receptionist.
“I wanted his honest opinion, you know some people want to sing but they can’t sing, some people want to dance, but they can’t dance, I wanted to know if I could do this and he said he could see me doing it 150%.”
After completing the certificate, Diana looked for jobs as a receptionist but said she found it difficult without experience.
Eventually, she started working at the Cork International Hotel in the housekeeping department and after a few months, they trained her to work behind the front desk.
“They were very supportive,” Diana said.
“I was delighted.”
Diana, who also has a degree in accounting, although she has never worked in this area, said she loves her job at the Cork International Hotel.
“I always like that phrase, find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life. I love my job, I love communicating with people and I enjoy getting on well with the guests.”
The accomplished academic said she got her accounting degree to please her mother, who always dreamed that her daughter would work in a bank.
“I did the degree for my mother. I never wanted to work in a bank.”
The former police officer now loves what she does and if you gave her a gun now, she wouldn’t know what to do with it.
“I think I have forgotten all the training, how to put it together and everything. I don’t think I would be able to use one now.”
Diana speaks three languages - Russian, Latvian and English - and her son is also gifted in this area.
“His teacher rang me one day and asked could I come in to talk. I said ‘what is going on?’ and she showed me an Irish test my son did, 96%. They wanted to know if I was going to send him to the Gaeltacht school here in the city.”
Artyom, who is 13, is attending Gaelcholáiste Mhuire Ag and is about to go into second year this September.
“He loves school, he is a bit of a nerd,” Diana said, “but these days that is the best thing you can be.”
He also plays basketball with Blue Demons and loves to swim.
Next year he is joining the Dolphin swimming club to progress to the next level.
The proud mother said her son is also a maths whizz and does very well academically.
Looking back at the move to Ireland, Diana said it was one of the hardest decisions of her life, but also one of the best.
“Ireland has so much to offer, for my son there are more opportunities, better opportunities. We are very happy here.”
Although very settled in Cork, Diana said Artyom usually spends a large chunk of his summer holidays in Latvia with his grandparents but this year, because of Covid-19, it was not possible.
“This summer is his first summer in Ireland so he is a bit confused like most of us,” Diana said.
Over lockdown, she struggled at the start.
“There was too much togetherness for me and my son. I love and adore him, but when you are stuck in the house, it is hard.
“At times I felt I couldn’t breathe. For the first few weeks, I was depressed, but after a month it was fine, you just get used to it.”
Diana said she attended some online wellbeing webinars that really helped and went for lots of walks with her son and their dog, a Yorkshire terrier, Bax.
Bax is 11 and has been with the family for the past decade.
“After a few months in Cork, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” Diana said. “This is home.”
She loves Kinsale and the Sea Safari boat tours in Cobh.
“You go out on a speedboat and you can see all the dolphins and the nature. It is very special.”
Diana also loves walking with friends and going to The Everyman and the Opera House.
“Cork is very beautiful, my dad, he always says to me, send pictures, because he knows it will be scenic.”
Although Diana doesn’t miss Latvia very much, she has missed her parents since the Covid-19 pandemic made travelling quite difficult and she hopes she will get to reunite the family soon.
“My parents come over to us every Christmas. I am the only child, they adore Cork, especially food, my dad loves steaks, Irish meat is the best and Irish breakfasts.”