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Tuesday, 7th March 2023

Ukrainian refugees say thanks to the people of Drogheda

Front Page

Natasha Ibanez speaking at Sunday afternoon's "Stand with Ukraine" event in West Street.

“We will take a piece of this town with us in our hearts when we return home”

By Andy Spearman

My wife Jenny and I were away in Spain for two weeks holiday and only got back last Friday. It was a really enjoyable break and I love travelling but it’s always nice to get home, back to your own bed and to the company of friends and family.

On Sunday afternoon I attended the Stand with Ukraine event in West Street and got to thinking how it must feel for refugees, from anywhere in the world, to be away from their homes for such long periods of time without any prospect of getting home any time soon.

Young and old standing together for peace.

The event was organised to mark the first anniversary of the devastating invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army which in the past year has been the cause of more than 8,000 civilian deaths with many thousands more injured.

The introductory speaker, local woman Karrie McIntyre, hit the nail on the head when she said: “We are privileged in this country to have safety and security and to able to share it.”

“There’s a reason why Ireland is known as Ireland of the Welcomes” she said, “because Ireland is a welcoming country populated with people who are generous and kind. No matter what little we have we will share it with those in need.”

“Today we are glad to be standing together with refugees from Ukraine who have been through terrible events and we are honoured to say welcome.”

Natasha Ibanez, a Ukrainian citizen who has lived in Ireland for 25 years, the last 15 of them in Drogheda, said that there is a small community of Ukrainian people who have been living in Drogheda for years and had made a good contribution to life in the locality.

“But,” she said, “this event is about people who have been arriving since about a year ago, many of them coming from peaceful towns like Drogheda where they looked after their children and the elderly in a peaceful environment which had been broken by their big neighbour; something that this country knows about.

“A lot of people have returned to Ukraine, including some of my family who are back in their homes even though there is the threat of missile attack at any time. “The reality on the ground is that the attacks continue on a regular basis and much of it is not reported in the media.

“There was a time when there would be a massive missile attack every ten days or so but now it is every day” she said.

Natasha spoke of family members in Ukraine living in a highly dangerous situation every day asking themselves when the sirens sound ‘should I go for the shelter or will I stay and finish my dinner? Should I take my sick mother to the hospital or rush to the shelter?”

“Some of us have lost our homes, some have lost our families or both. Sadly, many have lost hope for the future.”

“But Drogheda has accepted us and offered us refuge and this has meant so much to us and had allowed us the opportunity to plan ahead – something that was impossible in the middle of the chaos in Ukraine.

“All of the Ukrainian people who have sought safety in Drogheda are hugely grateful” she said. “I can safely say that each one of them will take a piece of this town home with them in their hearts when they return to Ukraine.”

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