A UKRAINIAN star was at the centre of heart-breaking scenes in Youghal yesterday after having to say goodbye to his wife and young family for the second time since they fled war.
Dmytro Cherkasov was able to make it back to his family for two weeks after receiving a military pass to collect food and medical aid for soldiers on the frontline.
The community of Youghal had come together to gather as many supplies as possible in support of the family. Dmytro is now en route home among a convoy of other vehicles providing aid to the country.
The situation is a far cry from the glamorous existence Dmytro once enjoyed.
A reality star and Olympian swimmer, Dmytro’s life had all the makings of a fairytale. His ‘happily every after’ came in the form of lawyer Oleksandra Cherkasova, whom he wed five years ago before welcoming Mark, 3, little brother to Tymofli, 5.
He described their life up to a few months ago as “paradise”. The pair met after Dmytro starred in the Ukrainian version of reality show The Bachelor — a series revolving around a single man who eliminates from a pool of love interests every week to find the love of his life. While it didn’t work out with the winner of the show, Dmytro knew he had found the one in lawyer Oleksandra following a social media encounter.
“She had been liking all my posts on Instagram so I got in contact to say hello,” he told The Echo. “The show was finished. I had some time on my hands and asked her to go for coffee. That coffee turned into a wedding. I always said that I’d never get married but we moved in after six months together and had our wedding six months later.”
However, life changed forever after they returned home from holiday in Barcelona to a country they didn’t recognise.
Dmytro recalled how they became alarmed by a loud noise interrupting their slumber.
He compared that day to “armageddon”, with bombs and explosions assaulting their eardrums throughout the day.
“It felt like the house had jumped,” he said of the first explosion. “First, we thought that something had exploded in the house and we looked around.”
Panic immediately took hold after the couple realised they were being invaded by Russian forces.
Oleksandra said their initial thoughts centred around the children.
“They were being looked after in their grandparents’ home as we had just come back from holiday. We worried for them and wanted to know they were OK,” she said.
Life as they knew it changed forever.
Dmytro explained: “I went out in the car and it was like armageddon. There were cars all around me that had been blown up. I am a strong man but when I saw that I don’t know what happened to me.”
They resided in a basement for a period before Dmytro was forced to part with his family as they sought refuge in Ireland.
Dmytro remained in Ukraine and now forms part of the reserves for the Territorial Defence Forces. He also volunteers helping Strong Nation Battalion No. 32. While he pines for his wife and children every day, he derives comfort from knowing they are being looked after.
“We lost everything but we have safety and that is the most important thing to us right now,” he said.
“I just hope we can stop the war. I would like to say a big thank you to the Irish people for taking care of my family. The Irish people have the same mentality as the Ukrainians because they love to help people.”
Dmytro remains unsure about what the future holds. “I don’t know what the Russians are going to do next. All I know is that I need to help. We don’t know what our future is going to be like, but I hope that we can start another life.”
It’s been more than seven months since Russia invaded Ukraine, with tens of thousands of deaths to date. It is also responsible for Europe’s largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Around 7.5m people have fled the country to date with a third of the population displaced.
Other offshoots of the war include Russia’s greatest emigration since the 1917 October Revolution and global food shortages.