Limerick village welcomes children fleeing war in Ukraine

Young Ukrainian refugees playing on the lawn at Cahermoyle House in Ardagh

CHILDREN who fled the hell of war in Ukraine several days ago are today happily playing on the peaceful grounds of Cahermoyle House in County Limerick.

Having escaped from the threat of Russian missiles, more than 50 Ukrainian refugees have found a warm welcome, safety, shelter, and sustenance at the 1870-built Venetian palazzo style mansion, set on 43 acres just outside the village of Ardagh.

Under a blanket of hazy sunshine and spring birdsong, Ukrainian children laughed, chasing one another on the front lawn; women rocked buggies to soothe babies; others monitored the latest news of the war, hoping to make contact with loved ones who have been left behind in the war-zone.

A caretaker at the house – which was a 30-bedroom nursing home constructed by Edward Smith O’Brien, son of William Smith O’Brien, leader of the Young Ireland movement – asked for privacy for those who had made the exhausting journey from Ukraine.

Within hours of being notified of the Ukrainian families’ arrival, the local community had donated €2,500 in cash, as well as clothes, and toys”, said David Woulfe, chairman of the local St Kieran’s GAA Club, which is spearheading the fundraising effort.

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“It’s tough. There are twins there, about three years of age, a boy and a girl, and their aunt was looking after them. I’m not sure about their mother, but apparently their 18-year-old brother was left at home with their father,” Mr Woulfe explained.

“People in Ireland might think we have it tough, but these people really have it tough.

“I suppose natural instinct kicked in and we all got involved and organised a collection of clothes, toys and some food in the community hall. We have been inundated with stuff; people’s generosity has been absolutely unbelievable.”

“48 Ukrainians came here on Saturday night and another busload came last night. We ran out of space last night and one local family took in a person to sort that,” he explained.

“People have been absolutely fantastic – Cahermoyle House is a big place and heating is a big issue – and we have had two local offers to pay the gas bill.”

Extra washing machines and tumble driers have also been donated locally, and rooms at the temporary accommodation have been fitted with new mattresses and bed linen.

Appealing for cash donations to buy whatever is needed for the Ukrainian families, Mr Woulfe said: “On Saturday night the children were able to sleep together, but they needed nightlights, and within about half an hour we had ten sets of nightlights on the way, so people are fantastic, and local businesses are helping out as well.”

“I hate saying it, but cash is king, I counted it up last night and we had about €2,500 in cash donations, and that’s great. The other night we got a message that the children badly needed slippers, so I gave €100 to a local woman who wanted to help, and she went off and bought 30 pairs of slippers.”

Mr Woulfe also appealed for people to give their new Ukrainian neighbours time to settle into their temporary home.

“I believe they were travelling for six or seven days. Some of them came with cars and arrived into Rosslare on Saturday, and nobody realised they were coming so it was short notice, but that’s the nature of war,” he said.

“Within a few hours, we had so much stuff, and I’d say we have enough toothpaste for half of Ukraine, but it’s phenomenal, people are brilliant, people are fabulous when it comes down to it, it would just amaze you.”

Fr Micheal Noonan, parish priest of Ardagh-Carrigkerry, also welcomed the Ukrainian families and praised the community’s very generous fundraising efforts.

“We are praying for them all the time, and Holy Hour is next Friday and Pope Francis is dedicating Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary so, we will join in that holy hour on Friday,” added Fr Noonan.