Ukrainian journalist Viktoriia Malceva writes for The Clare Echo in an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at life for refugees fleeing war in their country.
Ukrainian refugees began to settle in Ennis four weeks ago, mostly made up of women and children aged from six months to age 18. There are more than 100 people in Auburn Lodge Hotel now, many of whom do not speak English. I am here with my toddler daughter and my mother, while my husband and father are main in Ukraine. It is a typical scenario for people staying in the Auburn Lodge.
Each family lives in a room and has good living conditions and are fed three times a day. Volunteers from Clare Immigrant Support Centre along with other Ennis residents have brought many things and necessary items for the children, including bicycles. But the main thing for them is obtaining a PPSN (Personal Public Service number) which is vital to securing social welfare benefits, public services and information in Ireland.
Most people have fled fighting and they don’t have a home anymore. So they need financial support now. Volunteers are helping with PPSN, work and English courses for them. Some Ukrainians already have jobs or are attending courses while their kids are in local schools such as Ennis Educate together, where 45 Ukrainian children attend.
Julia, a Ukrainian hotel resident, explains, “[Local] people who live near the hotel, they took us and children to the Intreo centre to complete the [PPSN] paperwork because the road from the hotel to the town centre is 40 minutes on foot and it is difficult for children to walk. Irish people have been so welcoming to us”.
Orla Ní Eíli from Clare Immigrant Support Centre says the refugees are concerned about their future in Ireland, and anxious about the uncertainty of how long they may be forced to be away from their native country.
There is also emotional turmoil as refugees contend with relatives and friends’ lives under threat at home. Tamila, who is from Chernihiv in the north of Ukraine, explains, “We are glad that we don’t hear the alarm on the street and sleep peacefully at night, and our children are safe. But there, at home, our husbands and relatives remained. We are afraid for them”.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Clare Local Development Company organized a celebration for the Ukrainians people who celebrate Easter on April 24, including sweets, art, facepainting, dance and music. More than 50 people came to event. Irish and Ukrainians came together to sing the Ukrainian national anthem and volunteers distributed chocolate eggs to all the children.