WATCH: A passion for Irish trad helping Ukrainian Nadia settle in Cork 

‘’I thought that maybe I could go to Ireland, with my family, because I know people here, it would mitigate the terror of leaving the country and becoming refugees.
WATCH: A passion for Irish trad helping Ukrainian Nadia settle in Cork 

Nadia Dobrianska. Pictures: Mostafa Darwish

‘’All I have is this strong connection with Ireland. I have a Master’s in Irish studies from Queen’s University, Belfast. I spent a year and a half living in Northern Ireland a few years ago.’’

Nadia Dobrianska moved from Kyiv to Cork two weeks ago with her family.

She used to work as a project manager working on the issues relating to political prisoners held in Crimea, occupied by Russia, she said.

In addition, she was also managing a project related to sanctions on Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine under occupation-related to human rights violations.

Nadia Dobrianska arrived in Cork in March 2022. 
Nadia Dobrianska arrived in Cork in March 2022. 

‘’Now with the full-scale invasion by Russia into Ukraine, my projects have changed, and we had to reframe all the work with my colleagues. So now I will be involved in documenting human rights violations and war crimes by the Russian military in Ukraine.’’

When the war started, Nadia Dobrianska was following the news.

She saw that Ireland lifted the visa restrictions for Ukrainians, and she decided to move to Cork after an Irish family offered to host her and her family.

‘’I thought that maybe I could go to Ireland, with my family, because I know people here, it would mitigate the terror of leaving the country and becoming refugees.

‘’I was approached by some friends in Ireland who offered help coming here, and I accepted it. And we are very well looked after here, thankfully. So I think it was a reasonable choice.”

Long-standing love of Irish trad 

Ms Dobrianska has had a long-standing interest in Ireland since she was a teenager, when she first heard Irish traditional music. She tried to learn the Irish language, but it didn’t work out at the time.

‘’It was when I heard Irish traditional music from a fellow who introduced me to this, I was trying to learn Irish early on and didn’t work out.’’

In 2018 she received a scholarship to study Irish studies and language.

‘’I decided to do something for myself that wasn’t related to my work. And I decided to do a master’s in Irish studies or something related to Ireland,” she explained. I was really delighted that I did it because this programme was very flexible. I studied Irish history and politics.’’

Nadia Dobrianska. Image Mostafa Darwish
Nadia Dobrianska. Image Mostafa Darwish

Ms Dobrianska plays the Irish flute, and she sings Irish traditional songs in Irish and English.

‘’I’ve been learning songs in Irish for many years... I now can do this, because I speak Irish. I’ve been learning it for three and a half years. So, now I can sing in Irish and understand what’s going on in the song that I’m singing.

‘’This is something that I like, I set up a traditional Irish session with my friend Mikey O’Shea, who was teaching in Kyiv, and he’s a fiddler.

“Some Ukrainian musicians love Irish traditional music. We used to play right [up] until the invasion.’

‘’I fled with my family, so the session is no longer, but it was fantastic. So I hope that we will catch up at some point and I can join the traditional Irish session here when I’m settled here.’’

She said she feels lucky that her Cork host family has a musical background, so she practices with them.

‘’I’ve played a few times in the last two weeks, and my host plays Uilleann pipes.’’

More needed politically 

Ms Dobrianska said that she’s grateful for what Ireland and Europe are doing to support Ukrainian refugees, but said she wishes the European Union would do more politically.

‘’’I am really thankful for how we have been greeted.

‘’My only concern is that the EU is buying Russian oil and gas at the moment. And that’s funding the war. And I’d really like to see a full embargo imposed on Russia.’’

She said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of the local neighbours of her hosts in Cork.

While she said that her family members have very little English, the locals stop them and try their best to communicate with them with welcoming words and smiling faces.

“People are just doing their best here, neighbours are calling to her [host’s] house now and again, bringing clothes and shoes, knowing that we need that.’’

Ms Dobrianska said that the grassroots and state support they are getting, such as access to social support and medical care from early days, is also overwhelming.

“I’m really concerned that this is going to put a lot of pressure on the Irish healthcare system, and it’s going to be very hard on the state budget.’’

With her primary role as a researcher nowadays, she’s trying to improve her Irish language by attending weekly online classes. She’s also trying to teach her family how to use technology to improve their English.

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