STANDING with a Ukraine flag on Denmark Street in Limerick City, university lecturer Ohla Stepenanko keeps smiling, despite the horrors unfolding back in her homeland.
“I arrived in Ireland two weeks ago. Our region was occupied by Russian forces from the first day of the war so when the occupants allowed a humanitarian corridor, I tried to escape from Ukraine.”
“I travelled for three days before reaching Poland and then Copenhagen and now Limerick.”
The 37-year-old, who travelled from Ukraine alone, prays daily that her parents, who have remained there, will survive the war.
She is currently waiting out the war in the peaceful surrounds of Castleconnell village.
“In Ukraine, I was a university lecturer teaching Mathematics and English but I don’t know how to explain the disaster there.
“Some of our territories and cities were occupied and some of our occupiers did a lot of terrible things and some cities are destroyed – not just buildings, but cities with very critical infrastructure and so on.”
“People were killed, murdered, people suffered, a lot of things were stolen from people’s households, and what is it all for?”
Her parents home village “is fortunately not destroyed and we hope it will remain so for the future”.
“My parents are a little bit scared, but in general they are okay, but sometimes we don’t have internet connection to communicate.”
She is grateful for the warm welcome she has received on Shannonside, but she poignantly added, “sometimes I am really upset that I can’t enjoy it here as much as I would in peace time.
“Every minute I am checking the news, and I must control my emotions because I get a message when our territory is in danger of being bombed.”
“I worry every time I get these messages and I pray,” she added.