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Friday, 13th May 2022

One man's journey rom Ukraine to Drogheda with a broken guitar

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Olena Bondarenko with her son Maksym (centre), and Paul Murphy, Sales Manager at AA Music presenting a  new guitar.

By Lili Busby

When Olena Bondarenko told her two sons Maksym and Oleksii that they could take one thing with them as they fled the war in Ukraine, Maksym was in no doubt – he took his guitar.

When Olena, Maksym and Oleksii, fled their home in central Ukraine to travel across Europe to escape the war they had no idea where they would end up.

“It was very hard to stay there because there was so much stress, every hour you heard an alarm” said Olena.

“For Maksym, the guitar allowed him to forget the war, and drown out the alarms. Yet, as they were travelling through Frankfurt, the guitar got broken.

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“It was a very hard journey for us because we started on the 9th March and we travelled from the centre of Ukraine.” Their home city, Kropyvnytskyi, is 188 miles from Kyiv.

“I must feel that my children are safe, that is the most important thing for me.” Olena went on to say, “When the kids asked where we were going, I said I don’t know I don’t know…we stay together.” Eventually, the family arrived in Dublin, minus a guitar, and finally travelled to Drogheda.

Olena, who previously worked as a German translator, explained that they needed to move to an English-speaking country as her sons learnt some basic English in school.

For her, despite her ability to speak German, it was crucial that her children could understand the language surrounding them. On first arriving to Ireland, the “kids always said they heard an alarm, and I said no, no alarm here… for Makysm, the main thing for him is not to hear the alarm again.”

Seeking help on a Facebook group, where Ukrainians can reach out to locals for help, Olena posted a request if anyone could gift her son with a new guitar for his 15th Birthday. “If you have such possibility to make such a gift, it would be the best gift for him” she said.

Northern Irish business AA Music reached out, gifting him an electric guitar and amplifier. “We just hated to see how this young man had lost his guitar and realised this must’ve been very important to him. We hope his enjoyment of music can take his mind off the war in Ukraine” said Paul Murphy, the Sales Manager at AA Music.

Maksym and his brother Oleksii plan to continue their education in Drogheda and Maksym hopes to find a music band he can play with - any band intersetsted in contacting Maksym should email and we'll put you in touch.

Olena and her family felt welcome in the countries they travelled through. “The people felt emotion,” she said, “and the wish to help us was so great I can’t describe it…you don’t understand words, you understand emotion…I’m very thankful…so amazing you know, we don’t feel alone here.”

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