THIRTY-year-old Ukrainian, Daryna Hruzdieva, who came to Cork when Russia invaded her country, says she was always an optimistic and positive person. When war broke out, “it changed my life. But we need to believe in good things. If we don’t, we will have depression.”
Daryna, whose English is quite good, says that even amid the terrible times for her fellow Ukrainians, good things have happened to her since she moved to Cork.
“I have a job. My parents (who are separated) and my grandmother are with me. We are living in a house. I can go on with my life.”
But that’s not to say that life has been in any way easy for Daryna. She says she suffered from depression when she first came to Ireland in March, traumatised by what was happening in her native country.
“It was my mum’s birthday when we came here. It was like a present for her to be in a safe country. We were living with a host family near Fermoy.”
After a while, Daryna decided to look for a job, even though she was “a bit depressed” because of everything that happened.
“Work is sometimes good for you if you have problems,” she said.
The host family’s woman of the house helped Daryna in her search for a job. She wanted to continue working in recruitment, having worked in that area in Ukraine.
“AA Euro Recruitment Group invited me for an interview. I had a few stages of interviews and they made me an offer.
“I work in the Cork office. I love the job. I thank them for hiring me. It’s a business environment.
“I started work six months ago. My English wasn’t perfect. It’s a bigger challenge to do it in English. But I was given this opportunity to show myself. We have offices in Europe, London, Dublin and Cork.”
Daryna helps Ukrainian people to try and find jobs but the language barrier can be problematic.
“We are placing people in jobs for general operators in factories and cleaners and waiters in the hospitality sector. It depends on the level of English they have.”
Sometimes, Ukrainian refugees, who don’t have cars, are living outside of Cork city where public transport isn’t always available. Daryna moved house to Mitchelstown with her family so that she could avail of the bus service there.
“Something very nice happened. Me and my family got a house in Mitchelstown out of the DIY SOS television programme.”
Hosted by RTÉ, DIY SOS: The Big Build For Ukraine to be screened on December 30 and 31, will see host Baz Ashmawy and his team come together to renovate homes for Ukrainian refugees in Kingston College in Mitchelstown.
Six of the 31 terraced homes in Kingston College, which date back to 1761, have been renovated and retrofitted. The houses have been in trust since the mid-18th century to three Church of Ireland bishops who have been maintaining them through a fund.
Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton, is one of the trustees. Having seen the plight of the Ukrainian people, he and diocesan secretary Billy Skuse, decided to put out an appeal to raise funds to do up some of the vacant houses so that refugees could live in them.
The nine-day build in Mitchelstown was carried out by volunteers from builder’s merchants Chadwicks, who supplied the materials. The houses allow Ukrainian families to have a sense of comfort and independence during their time in Ireland.
Daryna’s father has a disability. He has the use of only one eye. He was living in Bucha, where he made furniture, until Russians soldiers occupied the city.
Daryna’s mother works as a volunteer in a Ukrainian hub in Cork. Her grandmother, who is 80, is too old to be “leaving every month to live in different places”.
Daryna, who had been renting an apartment in Kyiv, was happy to take her grandmother to Cork where the family has some stability.
“My relatives and friends left Ukraine. Some are in Germany, Poland and Canada. It’s very hard for the people who stayed in Ukraine. They don’t have a normal life. How can you live when you have only two to four hours of electricity per day? It’s not living. It’s surviving.”
Daryna’s mother’s apartment in Bucha was destroyed. “It’s without windows and without a door. The windows in my father’s apartment broke in an explosion a few days after the war started.”
Daryna says before her grandmother and father joined her and her mother in Cork, she worried about them. “Now I’m so happy that we have this temporary house during the war.”
Looking back on her time here, Daryna says she was “nicely surprised that everyone tried to help me, to find accommodation and a job.”
Asked when she thinks the war in Ukraine will end, Daryna says: “It’s a difficult question. Unfortunately, I think the war will continue in 2023.”