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Monday, 25th September 2023

Ukrainian woman speaks about her flight from war to a new life in Drogheda

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Olha Skoryk and her childen Valeria and Oleh pictured at the opening of the exhibition in Drogheda Library. 

A very special exhibition of photographs depicting the life shattering effects of the Russian attacks on a young Ukrainian woman and her family was unveiled on Friday last at Drogheda Library in Stockwell Street.

Two years ago Olha Skoryke was living happily with her husband Vitalli and their two children in a town called Chernihiv in the North of Ukraine just 50 kilometres from the Russian border.

Now Vitalli is dead and Olha and her daughter Valeria (16) and son Oleh (11), having made their way across Europe, are now living in the former Franciscan Friary in Laurence Street.

Nervous and broken hearted by the events that have changed their lives so drastically, Olha told Drogheda Life at the exhibition opening that Vitalli was an IT Specialist who had volunteered to fight in the war but sadly was killed in a battle in the East of the country, on March 18th 2022, at a small town called Popasna. He was just 35 years old.

It was over a month before Olha got the devastating news.  She was still in Chernihiv which was devastated by the bombing being left with no heating, electricity or water. And so she came to the decision that she must take her children out of the war-torn country of her birth and find a safe haven elsewhere.

A group of volunteers helped her and the children get to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and from there they crossed the border into Poland where she stayed for two or three weeks and a group of Polish volunteers helped her with the onward journey.

Olha with her husband Vitalli who was killed inthe war in Ukraine.

Olha said that at first she had no idea where she and her children would end up, but she chose Ireland as her destination because she had been told that it is the best country for children. Also, the tickets were cheaper!

She and her young family have been in Drogheda for over a year now and are really settling in. The two children are both in school, Valeria in Greenhills and Oleh in St. Peter’s National School. They are both also members of Drogheda Swimming Club where they have made lots of friends.

“The support from Irish people has been fantastic” Olha said. “Having a safe place to live and where my children can do their studies makes me very happy. I am very thankful to everyone who has helped me.”

Asked about the future, Olha says that her dream now is for the war to end so she and her children can return to Ukraine and rebuild the house that she and Vitalli built together.

Olah's children Valeria and Oleh are both into swimming and have made some great friends in Drogheda Swimming Club. Valeria is pictured at the  NAC where she won her first Irish medal and Oleh is pictured with a group of his swimming friends.

“I want to return, rebuild and start a new phase of my life” she said, somewhere I can invite my Irish friends to come and visit us!”

Michael O'Dowd, the Director of My Streets Ireland who organised the exhibition, said it was a great privilege to present the photographic exhibition which he describes as “...a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

Through Olha's poignant journey, we bear witness to the devastating impact of war in Ukraine. Her loss, resilience, and eventual integration into the warm embrace of Drogheda's community are beautifully captured in these photographs.

“The portraits of other refugees are also poignant as is the portrayal of the utter destruction visited on the Ukranian people.

“We are very grateful to the Louth Arts Office and the Drogheda Library for their support.”

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