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No escape from worries of war for Galway’s Ukrainians

As Galway’s Ukrainian refugee community get ready to mark a second Christmas away from home, concern for those still in the war-torn country remain at the top of their minds.

An Spidéal-based Archee Kvashyn, who arrived in Galway with his wife and three children in March 2022 says despite their concerns, he and his family are trying their best to prepare for the festivities – all the while feeling a sense of helplessness as they hear about the continuing horrors at home in Ukraine.

“People are in distress here [in Galway] a lot of the time. It is difficult, but saying that, they feel safe here and we have integrated well.

“But it feels like you have two lives – one life is here in Ireland where you have a job, your children are in school. But there is the second life where you’re worrying about friends and family at home. You never feel 100 per cent stable and safe,” explains Archee.

He is one of around 5,000 Ukrainian refugees in Galway City and County, according to the latest figures available from the CSO.

Archee says nothing could have prepared them for what happened when Russia invaded their home country in February 2022, and while the desire for many was to return home as soon as possible, the reality is that war continues – and many have no home to return to.

“I’ve lost my home – I have no house to go back to now because it was destroyed. I’m just trying to rebuild a life now,” he says.

Staying in temporary hotel accommodation for an extended period was not ideal, continued Archee, but they were trying to cope despite its challenges.

“Usually, all is good. Mostly, people have got jobs and have learned English but sometimes it is difficult.

“A big issue, as everyone knows, is housing. Living in a hotel is difficult, and people are trying to find places to rent but there is nowhere. People have jobs and can pay rent but they cannot find anything,” he explains.

Next February will mark two years since the first arrivals came to Ireland and for those in hotel rooms, former B&Bs and other temporary accommodation, it is not easy to be unable to cook their own meals or have their own space, continues Archee.

Likewise, Archee says he wants to open his own business working with cars but finding an affordable space to rent is a challenge.

Recently announced by the Government will see welfare payments for new arrivals from Ukraine reduced to €38.80 for 90 days during which period State-funded accommodation will be provided. Archee says the Ukrainian community here understands why the Government has chosen to do this.

“We understand that Ireland is not so big for taking so many people – it is understandable.

“We are planning to organise a big event in January to that the new rules can be explained to us by the authorities, so that people understand the changes,” he says.

For now, though, Archee says providing an enjoyable Christmas for the children here, and some supports for those at home is his and many others focus.

“The Ukrainian community in Galway will be at a stall in Galway Christmas market for a couple of days, to provide support. And we sent some things back home so that we might make some of the children still there happy if we can,” he says.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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