Forty Ukrainians who have fled the war-torn country attended the event in Strokestown’s Community Centre.
The event was widely supported by organisations in the town including Strokestown parkrun and TidyTowns teams, as well as the local library, Women’s Shed, Gardening Hub, Strokestown Athletic Club, Soccer and GAA clubs.
Thirteen people from the town volunteered to help out on the day, with the event opened by the Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Cllr Tom Crosby. Cllr Joe Murphy and Senator Eugene Murphy also showed their support on the day.
A local choir sang some Christmas carols accompanied by one of the town’s pharmacists Michelle MacAuliffe on keys, while musicians Shirley Rogers and Eddie Cauneen played some traditional Irish music on the flute and tin whistle, with Mr Cauneen also taking to his feet to dance a hornpipe.
A Ukrainian man named Sergio, who had shown up to the event with a guitar, then treated attendees to a performance of some traditional Ukrainian folk songs.
Ger Glennon, who is involved in the town’s parkrun initiative and was the primary organiser of the event, said you could “hear a pin drop” during the impromptu performance.
Mrs Glennon said she had the idea to organise the event after some of Strokestown’s new residents started showing up to the parkrun initiative in Strokestown Park House on Saturdays.
However, due to the language barrier, she found it difficult to communicate with them and make them feel welcome.
Gratefully, Roscommon LEADER Partnership provided an interpreter on the day, Tetiana Kuzka, who helped facilitate conversation between the Ukrainian people and locals from the Strokestown community.
“Language is the day to day barrier we all face when trying to welcome our Ukrainian friends,” she said.
“The interpreter Tetiana was the key to the success of the event.”
The organiser wished to extend her thanks to the various umbrella groups within Roscommon County Council who helped make the event possible, and in particular, to Oliver Lydon, Linda Devine and Aisling Scahill.
“If our guests were able to relax and enjoy our hospitality and feel welcome, if only for a few hours, it was a success,” she said.
“We sometimes forget that these lovely people have had to flee their homes, leave treasured memories, leave elderly family members
“It’s Christmas, a time for giving. Let’s embrace them, their culture and learn from them.”