Refuge from the horror of war

Cuisle reopens to welcome Ukrainian refugees

The former Cuisle Accessible Holiday and Respite Centre in Donamon was a hive of activity on Friday last as volunteers worked tirelessly to prepare it for the arrival of up to 100 Ukrainian refugees.

  The resort, which had been used by the Irish Wheelchair Association until it was forced to close in 2019, welcomed 41 people in the early hours of Friday morning.

  Thanks to the efforts of Roscommon County Council, Roscommon LEADER Partnership and Roscommon Lions Club and local volunteers, the centre is now being used to provide refuge for those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

  Among the first arrivals was 30-year-old Yana Kvasnytsya, who was living and working in Kyiv and spent almost two weeks in the Ukrainian capital following the Russian invasion of her homeland in February.

  “There was fighting near Kyiv in the small towns and in Kyiv there was bombing and attacks from the air,” she said.

  Yana lived in the centre of the Ukrainian capital and said the air raid sirens would sound every couple of hours.

  “You had to go to the bomb shelter…there was one in a street near my home and you had five minutes to get there. The police and civilians would help people to go there,” she said.

  “It was difficult to get away from Kyiv if you didn’t have a car…the public transport was railway but it was difficult to get inside (the trains) because there were too many people leaving. It was a real battle at the railway station because so many people were trying to push (their way) on to the trains”.

  Yana bought a ticket to leave Kyiv but street fighting had starting close to her home and leaving became dangerous.

  She claims Russian fighters had donned civilian clothing to blend in around Kyiv.

  “They didn’t look like soldiers…they were wearing civilian clothes. There was a curfew from 8 pm until the next morning so we couldn’t go outside,” she said.

  “When I was at the railway station there was no particular schedule so you had to wait. I was very happy to leave because it was really dangerous. Most of my friends have left. I know some people who have stayed and some boys who wanted to fight with the territorial army but were refused because there were no guns for them”.

  While Yana is relieved to have arrived safely in Roscommon, her thoughts are still very much with her parents and younger brother, who stayed behind in Ukraine.

  “My home town is in central Ukraine and compared to other parts of the country it is safe. My parents lived near a big city but they (the Russians) were bombing the airport. My mother didn’t want to leave my father and my brother. They went to my grandmother’s village in the countryside because it is safer to stay there,” she said.

  “Ireland is super organised…when we came to the airport they gave us information in Ukrainian and helped with all applications. My friends who are in Italy and Spain have to wait a long time for an appointment to receive status to stay. Ireland is very welcoming and sincere and Roscommon is very beautiful countryside”.

  Looking to the future, Yana would dearly love to return home but for now she is determined to make the most of the situation she currently finds herself in. She was an attorney-at-law in Kyiv and hopes to find work here.

  “I want to look for a job because I don’t know how long I have to stay here. Who knows when the war will finish and we can get back to Kyiv…so now it’s better to organise your life where you are,” she said.

  “I want to get back to Ukraine and so do all my friends but now it’s not safe”.

Click to read: ‘Restoring my faith in humanity’ Ciaran Mullooly on how a community rallied to Ukrainian cause