Limerick to mark two years of war in Ukraine at public demonstration today

Hundreds turned out to a peace demonstration in February last year in solidarity with Limerick's Ukrainian community. Photo: Adam Leahy.

UKRAINE support and integration worker at refugee and migrant rights association Doras, Serhii Korobtsov, will be one of many people standing tall in Arthur’s Quay Park this morning (Saturday) to mark the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

At 36 years old, Serhii says he is of “military age” and has served as a volunteer in the military in his home country. His father before him marked a distinguished military career and is now serving with the veteran’s army.

“I am not a coward, I am not running away from anything,” he told the Limerick Post.

Serhii was away from his home country for work when the war with Russia broke out in February 2022.

“I spoke with the military and they said that as I speak English and I had other resources and knowledge, I would be better staying out and helping people who were leaving across the border into Poland and other countries. And that is what I did.”

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And that is what Serhii has continued to do since he came to Ireland and in his work with Doras.

“I never took any welfare money here. I volunteered to help and then I got a job because I want to send money back to Ukraine.”

His father Serhii Snr and mother Larisa , he says, “will never leave Ukraine. My father is working there with the veterans.”

Asked if he thinks those who have come to Ireland will some day return home, Serhii says that it’s “a difficult question to answer”.

“Most people believed they would be able to go back after a few months. Now the war has gone on for two years. If they had loved ones, property, a life there, in a lot of cases that was all wiped out by one missile and they have nothing to go back to but trauma.

“I say to all of the people who use Doras’ services: for however long you are here, don’t waste your time. Learn English, let the children go to school. Now people who have done that – who have got jobs and their children have made friends – they are more likely to stay.

“A lot of the people who just couldn’t bear to be away from Ukraine and couldn’t settle here have already gone back.

“The thousands of men, women, and children who saw their homes destroyed in Ukraine were received here with open arms. Ireland and Limerick have become their second home. For this unwavering welcome, Ukrainians will be eternally grateful to the people and local communities of Limerick.”

That eternal gratitude will be among the sentiments expressed by Limerick’s Ukrainian community at this morning’s gathering in Arthur’s Quay Park – one of many around the country marking the second year of a war that has resulted in thousands of deaths, the displacement of millions of people, and the widespread destruction of essential facilities and services across Ukraine.

Limerick has so far welcomed over 3,000 people escaping the war in Ukrainer, and, in doing so, has facilitated bonds being formed with the city and county that will extend across generations.

Furthering Serhii’s sentiments, Doras CEO John Lannon said that “Limerick should be proud of the welcome it has shown to people from Ukraine”.

“We must remember that the war continues to displace civilians and to reduce access to education, economic opportunities, health care and food security. People continue to arrive in Ireland seeking protection and while the circumstances they arrive into are not always ideal, we should continue to welcome and support them.”

Mr Lannon says that “everyone seeking protection in Ireland, be they asylum seekers or beneficiaries of temporary protection from Ukraine, should be treated with the dignity they deserve and helped to get on with their lives.”

He said that as the Ukrainian community in Limerick comes together this morning in Arthur’s Quay Park to remember the victims of war and to show their appreciation for the warm welcome of the Irish people, adding that “it is also important to recognise the contributions being made by Ukrainians to our communities”.

“Across the country, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have attended employment support events, with many having already secured employment or started their own businesses. There are also 18,000 children from Ukraine enrolled in primary and secondary schools, adding to the rich diversity of our communities”.

The Doras service workers know that for many of the people who arrived from Ukraine, the lack of available housing has meant that their stay in temporary, unsuitable, accommodation has been difficult.

“Family life has been curtailed and children’s development and mental health are affected,” Mr Lannon said.

“Nonetheless, the work done by a wide range of agencies and groups to provide access to services has been commendable.”

Doras will host a Standing for Peace gathering in Arthur’s Quay Park from 11.30am this morning (February 24). John and Serhii say everyone is invited to attend.