'Very grateful to the people of Cork': 1400 Leeside homes ready to welcome Ukrainians as sisters search for place to stay

Two Ukrainian sisters, Antonina Sheludchenko and Iryna Demchenko, who have arrived in Cork, are now among those who are looking for accommodation
'Very grateful to the people of Cork': 1400 Leeside homes ready to welcome Ukrainians as sisters search for place to stay

Maryna Kvochka with her mother Iryna Demchenko and her Aunt Antonina Shelydchenko who both arrived in Ireland from Ukraine on the 6th of March. Picture Dan Linehan

ALMOST 1,400 Cork homes have opened their doors to Ukrainian refugees following an appeal from the Irish Red Cross.

According to the charity, 75% is for shared accommodation where people have a room to spare.

Two Ukrainian sisters, Antonina Sheludchenko and Iryna Demchenko, who have arrived in Cork, are now among those who are looking for accommodation.

Iryna’s daughter Maryna Kvochka, who has been living in Cork since 2020, said: “They are in search of accommodation because I’m renting a room with only one bed, so there is no space for all of us.

“The past few nights a colleague of mine offered a room because she was out of the city, but starting from today we don’t have a place for them.”

Maryna’s mother and aunt both spoke to at the Together-Razem centre where staff are supporting people who have fled Ukraine. Iryna spoke of the terror she experienced sitting in her apartment at night with the lights out in a bid to avoid being bombed.

“She said it was super scary to sit in your apartment in the darkness and hear the noises outside,” Maryna translated.

With the conflict escalating, the sisters made the difficult decision to leave, with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Iryna has travelled over from Pokrovsk in Ukraine, whilst Antonina has come from the country’s capital.

“My aunt, she woke up because she heard the bombing and she realised that the war had started,” Maryna said.

“She was in Kyiv when it started, and for safety reasons she then moved to a village near Kyiv because everyone was expecting it to last just a few days.”

 Maryna Kvochka with her mother Iryna Demchenko and her Aunt Antonina Sheludchenko who both arrived in Ireland from Ukraine on the 6th of March. Picture Dan Linehan
Maryna Kvochka with her mother Iryna Demchenko and her Aunt Antonina Sheludchenko who both arrived in Ireland from Ukraine on the 6th of March. Picture Dan Linehan

“That village, they were bombing around that, so she spent a few nights in a basement and then she realised that it was very dangerous for her life to stay in Kyiv, and of course every day I was saying: ‘Please, please come to me, I’m afraid for you.’

“My aunt, by train, got from Kyiv to Lviv and my mum, she had to take three trains to get to Dnipro, a city in the middle of Ukraine, and then she got another train that was around 20 hours to get to Lviv.

“So for my mum it took two or three days to come from east to west and my aunt was waiting for my mum in Lviv and then when they were together they crossed the border in Poland,” Maryna explained.

The sisters say they are “very grateful” for the help and support Cork people have shown to Ukraine.

Director of the centre, Voyteck Bialek, said that the charity has linked up with the Irish Red Cross in an effort to arrange accommodation for people, and they are working to support Ukrainians in any way they can.

“After Covid, we only reopened our centre on February 21 and we were planning to slowly reopen all our services, and suddenly just a few days after, this invasion started,” he said.

“We haven’t even fully reopened, and we have to cope with such a crisis.

“For years we have been providing support to Polish and to eastern Europeans across five areas — mental health, advice and advocacy, languages, integration, and policymaking.

“Ninety per cent of our clients were Polish because we are the biggest diaspora here.

“Ukrainians are going to be the second-biggest minority in this country and we are expecting 100,000 of them, so we need to get ready for that.

“This is why we quickly set up the service.

“We have Ukrainian volunteers, we now have a Ukrainian-speaking support worker, and we need to act really quickly.”

Meanwhile, Together-Razem said that it is planning to host a rally in support of Ukraine on Sunday at 4pm on the Grand Parade.

To find out more about the work of Together-Razem or to make a donation to the centre’s fundraiser for Ukraine, visit www.together-razem.org.

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