MONEY, aid, volunteers! That’s that appeal from Greater Chernobyl Cause (GCC) to the people of south Cork, in its ongoing support for the traumatised victims of the war in Ukraine in both Ireland and their homeland.
No-one has more knowledge of this than Fountainstown woman and GCC founder Fiona Corcoran who told The Echo: ‘The disastrous war in Ukraine is causing enormous suffering. As the humanitarian situation drags on and worsens, we are desperately trying to get aid to those who need it most.
“We have worked in Ukraine for over two decades, assisting the poor, ill and desperate, funding the construction of orphanages, care centres and hospices for those abandoned and forgotten.
"Around 15 million people have now had to flee the Russian onslaught and over 40,000 mainly women and children have arrived in Ireland, some of whom we are assisting.
“We now send all the aid and funds that we can, donated largely by the people of Cork, but the scale of the tragedy is so great that no amount of aid ever seems to be enough.’
GCC’s involvement, said Fiona, began soon after the invasion on February 24, when, through a friend of the charity, it was able to initially get accommodation, following a chat in Angela’s Shop and Coffee Dock, at a house at Coast Road, Fountainstown, for Ukrainian mother Lana and her teenage son George from the heavily bombed city of Kherson.
With the influx that followed, the charity is constantly supporting, in various ways, some of the 580 Ukrainian refugees in the Quality Hotel, Redbarn, Youghal; in student accommodation and homes Cork and (through another friend of Fiona) even as far away as Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey, Co Donegal !
Fiona said a great debt of gratitude is due to Paul Walsh in Youghal and Kathleen McGuinness in Ballybofey care centres and both hotel staffs for their compassion and help.
Aid is provided for mainly women and children who fled to Ireland with hardly anything, and includes bicycles, scooters, goalposts, footballs, nappies, pots and pans, and even basic items such as shower sprays.
Aid to Ukraine
As has always been the case, GCC continues to collect and send out shipments of essential aid in container trucks to the worst affected cities towns and villages of Ukraine, with support from William O’Brien Self Storage, the charity has a facility at Bandon Road, Bishopstown, Cork.
Very important also are its two shops at Carrigaline Shopping Centre and Merchants Quay Shopping Centre, Cork, stocked with new items of clothing, footwear and gifts. People can donate goods and have these collected by GCC.
“Our next shipment in the next few weeks, will go to the border of Slovakia and Ukraine where we work with the Vincentian Order so donations of new items are urgently needed now, especially camping gear, sleeping bags, nappies, dried and tinned foods,” said Fiona.
Three previous shipments have gone to different border crossings.
Five months since the invasion began, said Fiona, millions of Ukrainians continue to be terrified with heavy bombardments, deaths, casualties, fuel and food shortages, and children crying and waking up to total destruction plus many other hardships. The fear and unknown along with missing family and friends in Ukraine is awful.
As a woman who has worked so closely with the poorest of the poor, sick and handicapped Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine - including the sewer kids in Kiev - Fiona said it was a terrible tragedy that she never thought would happen, and so unjust.
“These innocent people who have reached our shores are traumatised. If I’m feeling it so deeply, just imagine how they must be feeling? It’s not going to be over for some time so we must continue to reach out,” said Fiona.
“We are supporting the Ukrainian people in their struggle. We want to show as Irish people our solidarity with our Ukrainian friends, keeping their struggle to the foremost of Irish people’s minds. Our voice and action are a symbol of Irish Ukrainian unity against tyrannical behaviour,” she stated.
Fiona took the opportunity to thank GCC volunteers and supporters, including Tom ‘the bike man’ from Carrigaline; accommodation providers, businesses, schools (e.g. Goggin’s Hill NS, Ballinhassig, gathered supplies and sang the Ukrainian national anthem at the 36th anniversary of Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster organised by GCC at Bishop Lucey Park, Cork on April 26), intern and transition year students, customers of their shops and donors from South Cork and all over Ireland for their ongoing generosity.
GCC recently helped organise a brief but joyous reunion in Cork for a mother and two children given refuge in the Quality Hotel, Redbarn, Youghal, with their husband, who is a logistics worker with a small haulage firm operating between their home town Odessa and Constanta in neighbouring Romania.
“As overwhelming and stressful as it can be,” added Fiona, “I love what I’m doing more than ever because I’m with Ukrainian people and my fantastic fellow workers every day making a difference.”
How to help
Hold a fund-raising event such as an open garden day, coffee morning, cake sale, quiz, walk, raffle or bag pack in a supermarket etc.
Visit, volunteer or donate at the GCC shops in Carrigaline and Merchants Quay, Cork.
Find out more about how to help and donate by visiting www.greaterchernobylcause.ie or calling 087 9536133. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Greater Chernobyl Cause is located at Unit 2 Southside Industrial Estate, Pouladuff Road, Cork.