Cork veterans this week threw a party to welcome Ukrainian refugees to the local community, and to show them around Cork’s new Veteran Support Centre.
Members of the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (ONE) welcomed Ukrainian families to the new Veteran Support Centre on the Camp Field at Collins’s Barracks in Cork on Wednesday evening.
ONE helps Defence Forces personnel to transition into civilian life, and the organisation encourages retired members of the Garda Reserve, Reserve Defence Force, Red Cross, Fire Brigade Reserve, and Prison Service to join and become volunteers and members.
ONE has created a nationwide network of Veteran Support Centres based around its 37 branches, and last October it developed and opened a five-bedroom hostel in Cobh to address the increasing challenge of homelessness among veterans, and is currently working on plans for a similar facility in St Luke’s.
Bob Seward, chairman of the ONE Cork City branch, said the veterans were delighted to be able to welcome Ukrainian families to the centre, where cakes and refreshments were handed out, while a clown made balloon animals and Ukrainian flags for children.
“We’re organising a few events for them,” said Mr Seward.
“I’m involved in the Angling Council of Ireland myself and, starting this Friday, we’re taking Ukrainian people on angling trips to Tibbotstown Resevoir and family outings around the harbour.”
He said welcoming new people to the community was of great benefit to ONE veterans, especially now they had their new premises.
“The centre itself is absolutely superb for our own members,” said Mr Seward.
“We have great facilities, it’s basically a drop-in centre where veterans can call in, have a chat, have a cup of tea, and we have a number of trained people who can help on any specific problems for people, and we can arrange all the supports that they need.”
“The new home in St Luke’s is in progress, and that will be professionally run, so veterans that find themselves on hard times, that may just be in transition, we’ll give them a bed and we’ll provide professional counsellors and services to them.”
Paddy Mulley, secretary of the ONE Cork City branch, said their connection with Ukrainian refugees staying in different hotels and centres around the city had grown from meeting them for coffee mornings every Friday.
“We want to help them to integrate into the community, and we invited them to come here this evening,” he said.
Tatiana Shavlovska is from Mariupol, which has been devastated by the invading Russian army, and she arrived in Ireland in April with her daughter, and they were joined a month later by her husband.
“We were very surprised by the friendliness of the Irish people, everybody just wanted to help us, and I felt very comfortable here,” said Ms Shavlovska.
“I have been given a chance to rest and to collect my thoughts, and now I am looking for a job.
“I am a teacher of English and a pre-school teacher, and I have already had three interviews, so I am very hopeful for the future.”