'Irish people are so kind': Emotional scenes as 33 Ukrainian refugees arrive in Cork

When the Ukrainians got off the bus, there were a flurry of introductions, but it was a lot to take in, especially after the trauma of leaving home in wartime, and a long, cross-continental trip, and some of the new arrivals seemed dazed and slightly lost in the grey Cork afternoon.
'Irish people are so kind': Emotional scenes as 33 Ukrainian refugees arrive in Cork

Natalia Katser and son Illya as they arrived at the Kingsley Hotel, Cork from Ukraine. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

There were emotional scenes on Monday outside the Kingsley Hotel as 33 Ukrainian refugees alighted from a Cronin’s coach after a gruelling coach journey across Europe.

Eight-year-old Finn Dennehy, from Glanmire, holding up a map of Ireland marked “Irlandiya”, strained to catch a glimpse of his dad, John, who had been part of the group 'Safe Harbour for Ukraine' which delivered a coach-load of humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian border in Poland, and then brought home a busload of refugees.

“I can’t wait to see my dad and all the people he’s bringing here from Ukraine,” Finn told The Echo. “He’s been away for one week and I’ve missed him lots.” 

Finn said his family was taking in a guest, but he didn’t know her name yet, and he said they would fit her in “because we do have a mattress and an extra bed”.

79 year old Adam Petrovsky is greeted by his niece Helena as he arrived at the Kingsley Hotel ,Cork with grandson Hlib, wife Halyna, from Ukraine. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
79 year old Adam Petrovsky is greeted by his niece Helena as he arrived at the Kingsley Hotel ,Cork with grandson Hlib, wife Halyna, from Ukraine. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Finn’s mother, Siobhán, laughing at this, stressed their guest would have more than just a mattress. She said her husband John and her brother-in-law, Derry Cronin from Cronin’s coaches, and her other brother-in-law, Rory Dennehy from Dennehy Motors, had come up with their plan and, with the help of a contact on the border, Wojciek, a driver with Cronin’s Coaches, they had carried it out inside of a fortnight.

When the Ukrainians got off the bus, there were a flurry of introductions, but it was a lot to take in, especially after the trauma of leaving home in wartime, and a long, cross-continental trip, and some of the new arrivals seemed dazed and slightly lost in the grey Cork afternoon.

Kate O’Brien, from Sunday’s Well, was explaining to The Echo her decision to take in a family - “I have a three-year-old son and I’d like to think that someone would do it for us if the roles were reversed” – when a young woman came over. 

Kate introduced her as Aline, and there was a moment of pure joy as Aline, exhausted from her ordeal, suddenly realised Kate was the person she had been speaking with over text messages, the person who was giving her a home in Cork.

Laura Wojnar, Siobhan and Finn Donnelly as refugees arrived at the Kingsley Hotel ,Cork from Ukraine. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Laura Wojnar, Siobhan and Finn Donnelly as refugees arrived at the Kingsley Hotel ,Cork from Ukraine. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

The two women embraced, laughing and crying, and Aline introduced Kate to her two young daughters. 

“This is Nadya. This means in English ‘Hope’, so we have hope, and this is Polyna.” Nadya is three-and-a-half, and Polyna is nine.

“Irish people are so kind, and it is so good that they are doing so much to help Ukrainian people,” Aline told The Echo.

“It’s heart-breaking to leave my husband behind, and it is so sad to think of what is happening to my beautiful country.” 

Rory Dennehy, who admitted to being “wrecked” from the long journey, said some of the people on the bus had been travelling across a war zone, and had been on the road long before they met the Cork group. 

“There’s people here who have been travelling for a week, a week-and-a-half, and they’ve had a pretty horrendous time.” 

5 year old Diana Petrovsky looks out on new surroundings as she arrived at the Kingsley Hotel ,Cork with her brother, mother and grandparents from Ukraine. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
5 year old Diana Petrovsky looks out on new surroundings as she arrived at the Kingsley Hotel ,Cork with her brother, mother and grandparents from Ukraine. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

He said the idea to bring refugees to Cork had “snowballed” from a conversation with his brother John, and had come together when Derry Cronin from Cronin’s Coaches became involved.

“We had three goals. One was to bring out a busload of supplies, and we reached that goal, we filled the bus and two artic trucks,” he said.

“The second goal was to fill the bus with women and children and to bring them home, we’ve reached that, with 33 on the bus, and we have another 15 or so coming in over the next few days as well, some flying in, some coming by ferry, we’re getting requests every 15 minutes or so.

“The third part of the puzzle is to give them an Irish welcome, get them integrated, get them into education, get them working, and treat them as guests,” Mr Dennehy said.

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