A hundred thousand receptions but little infrastructure
“I am about to return to Ukraine, but our city is constantly bombed and my wife is pregnant. But it is also impossible to live without her.”
Alexander Safronov’s room measures only 3m by 3m. In this space, he manages to rush from wall to wall, like a tiger in a cage. He cannot be reunited with his pregnant wife, who lives in another city.
Anna Makarenko was evicted from her hotel in Limerick just as she found a job. The new place of residence was a three-hour drive from the previous one. As a result, she lost her job before she even started.
Another Ukrainian, who wished to remain anonymous, is in quarantine because, with 60 other people, she has been living in a tent for a month and a half, waiting to be resettled. It was not difficult to catch Covid in such a situation.
Ukrainian Denis is an engineer and for several months he has not been able to find a job in his profession. Irish companies want to finalize a one-year contract and, according to the temporary protection letter, Denis is not allowed to live here for that long.
In addition, there are very few vacancies in the cities and, according to him, companies prefer to hire Irish people.
I must say that Ukrainians were reluctant to talk about their difficulties and problems. Some even showed animosity towards me: “Why are you writing about the negative, when wonderful Irish people have helped us so much, done us so much good?” “Editorial task,” I replied.
I have also found that many Ukrainians who talk about their problems in Ireland wish to remain anonymous, not only because they are afraid that their problems will get worse, but also because they are truly grateful for the sincere welcome ‘they received.
Those who wanted to speak described a great welcome, but very little infrastructure to support it.
Before the active phase of the war (it should be remembered that the war in Ukraine began in 2014), Alexander lived happily. A political candidate for deputy from Ukraine, owner of a perfume factory, a clothing factory and four post offices, he has built a home and a future for his family in the city of Mykolaiv.
Everything changed on February 25, 2022, when a rocket hit the yard next to his house. His neighbor was torn to pieces. Windows were smashed. Alexander realized that he had to save his family.
In Ireland, Alexander, his wife, mother-in-law and two children settled in Caherciveen. However, the stress experienced affects family relations: Alexandre falls out with his mother-in-law. Their relationship deteriorated to the point that the hotel owner asked her to leave.
After several days of life on the beach, Alexander arrived in Gort, where he found refuge in the convent with other Ukrainians.
He finds work on a construction site: he mixes concrete and does earthworks in all weathers, even in heavy rain. But there is a contractual problem between the company and the government, which means that the construction is suspended, so Alexander lost his job.
“The site is closed. Eighty houses are frozen,” he said. “I’ve been looking for a new job for two weeks. I’m an electrical engineer. And I can’t find a job in a small town in my specialty.”
In the meantime, Alexander has reconciled with his wife; they are now expecting their third child. His wife is two months pregnant, and Alexander regularly visits his beloved.
“Every weekend like that costs me €500-700 because the hotels here are expensive. In two months, I saw her four times, and it cost me €2,500,” he explains.
“I would like to move in with my wife, but there is no more room at the Convent of Mercy in Gort, nor do I have the option of returning to Caherciveen.
“My wife and I went to Citywest in Dublin last week. We were told they couldn’t help us, although their website says they do everything they can to bring families together. They told me redirected to the immigration office, where I was also turned away due to the large influx of people.
“I have approached the managers of our management company several times, but they told me that I have to solve my problems on my own. There are places left in our convent, I am ready to buy furniture for the rooms empty, but they refused me.
The readers of theYou may remember Anna Makarenko from my previous articles.
“I decided to take a chance and come to Ireland because I heard that the Irish were behind us and understood the essence of our war for freedom,” Anna said. She lived for a time in a hotel in Limerick. But two months later, the tourist season was approaching and the hotel needed its rooms.
By then, Anna and her neighbors had found jobs, enrolled in English classes, enrolled children in kindergarten, and even opened a Ukrainian charity center to help refugees. And all of a sudden, everything fell apart.
“Every day we asked Ipas [International Protection Accommodation Services] where they would take us. Did you find us accommodation? Every day it was the same answer: “Don’t worry, we won’t leave you on the street!”
“We didn’t find out where we would be living until the day we left the hotel. As a result, we ended up in the town of Killarney. It’s a lovely town, but there’s no work in my profile, there is no kindergarten for children, and we cannot further develop our Ukrainian social project center, so it had to be closed.
In Limerick, Anna had been appointed responsible for communications with the Ukrainians. She was ready to get up at 5 a.m. and spend almost three hours on the road to keep her job.
“But my manager turned me down after the move, arguing it was unacceptable from a welfare and employer obligation perspective,” she says.
“My professional specialization in Ukraine is public relations and marketing. After six months of internship, I planned to get a permanent job for this qualification here. I am 45 years old and I can already share my experience in public relations and marketing in organizations in Ireland and become a valuable part of the development of the country or at least the city.
“But things went wrong when we were moved to Killarney. I was hoping to come back. Every day I wrote tons of letters to all the organizations. But to no avail. I even have a letter from one organization where I was offered to sleep in the same bed with a complete stranger! I explained that this violated my rights. They apologized to me and offered me a place in the school gymnasium.
“We started looking for accommodation in Limerick on our own. There are a lot of empty houses and helpful people in Limerick. When we contacted the hosts we were told that we had submitted requests to the Cross- Red, but they were not approved. Cross slowed down the process, they introduced requirements such as no accommodation suitable for us, while officially declaring that there was no accommodation.
“We tried to rent a house ourselves, but Ukrainians were refused on the Airbnb site. Besides, everyone asked us to pay full price.
“Killarney is a wonderful tourist town, but there are only vacancies for waiters or bartenders. It’s also a problem that in Killarney it’s difficult with medicine – there’s no hospital there, it’s difficult with the choice of a school and the waiting list for that, says Anna.
Anna also wanted to bring her daughter to Ireland from Poland. But his passport was damaged and it is almost impossible to get a new one now because there are no free slots in the electronic queue of Ukrainian embassies in European countries.
“Until I find a place to live, I can’t bring her here. I can’t risk her education. My daughter wants to go to college and I can’t let her down.”
Anna Makarenko has lost the basis for the new life she has so diligently tried to build here due to movement between towns in Ireland. She has decided to return to Ukraine now, as the war continues.
“It may be dangerous there, but here I am at home and with my loved ones.”
Meanwhile, Svetlana (whose name has been changed at her request) is sick with Covid in a refugee distribution camp near Dublin.
“The sixth week has passed. If we had been resettled sooner, I wouldn’t have gotten sick,” she says.
“I’m not being treated. They gave Panadol and everything. There were no devices to measure saturation or pressure. I had to buy them myself to understand what was happening to me. They said they would take me to the hospital if it got really bad or I started choking.Then they would take me to the doctor immediately for a checkup when the test was negative.
Svetlana is in constant contact with her Ukrainian doctor and takes the medicines she brought with her. “We ask when we will finally be settled, but they don’t know; they are waiting for information from Ipas.
The difficulties are clear, but two things stand out when I talk to my fellow Ukrainians. First, no difficulty will lessen our gratitude for the warmth and sincerity of ordinary Irish people and for the work of government.
And the second thought that my fellow citizens asked me to relate: “We did not flee poverty but war. After that, we will return to our country and rebuild it again. But we will always be friends with you.