‘I strongly feel that we won’t come back home’: Ukrainians planning a future in Ireland

‘I strongly feel that we won’t come back home’: Ukrainians planning a future in Ireland

Updated: 9 days, 11 hours, 11 minutes, 47 seconds ago

The Pochupei family have no intention of returning to their home city of Mariupol in Ukraine.

With positive career opportunities, a rental home and their daughter happily settled, their future is in Ireland.

Olha Pochupei, her husband Volodymyr and their four-year-old daughter Kira arrived in Ireland on March 30th last year. They put all of their energies into improving their language skills and soon found gainful employment.

“In the beginning, we spent our time improving our English, then in May my parents came to Ireland and lived with us,” she says.

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Her husband found a job as an electrician, and then she took a position in St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin in payroll. Time passed, and the family decided they no longer needed accommodation provided by the State and started to rent a house in the capital.

Although they believe Ukraine will be victorious against the Russian invasion and Mariupol will eventually be liberated, the Pochupei family sees their future in Ireland, and would welcome the possibility of getting a mortgage for a house and citizenship.

“I strongly feel that we won’t come back home,” Pochupei says. “We lost everything in Mariupol, our house was totally destroyed.”Kira experiences panic attacks almost every time they speak of the terrible past in Ukraine. “We survived the worst things that the war can bring to a person and I have no intention to bring my child back to that hell,” Pochupei says.

Under the Temporary Protection Directive invoked by the EU in March 2022, Ukrainians can now live, work and study in EU countries for a period of three years.

Minister of State for Integration Joe O’Brien has said that a “pathway to permanency” should be opened for tens of thousands of Ukrainians, clearing the way for them to apply for citizenship or long-term residency ultimately.

Anatoliy Primakov from the Ukrainian Action in Ireland group believes it would be fair to give Ukrainian refugees the possibility of getting citizenship in the future.

He welcomes O’Brien’s “positive” statement, saying it shows that Ireland understands and is getting ready for the fact that some Ukrainians will decide to stay in Ireland. “The circumstances and the scale of destruction in Ukraine show that some people just have no place to come back to, so they will stay in Ireland. It is good to see that the State is thinking on the strategy of integrating refugees into Irish society not in short but in a long-time perspective”, he says.

Alina Kundukova (31) believes she can build a better life in Ireland for herself and her seven-year-old daughter, Alisa. She came here after spending a while in Poland. It wasn’t her first time in Ireland, as her mother is married to an Irish man who lived in Ukraine for seven years.

She lived with her father-in-law’s brother’s family for several months but then moved into State-provided accommodation in Waterford.

“I found a job in the Waterford volunteer centre as a Ukrainian outreach volunteer worker,” says Kundukova. “My daughter is happy with her school. Learning English isn’t a problem for her, she knows it already so she’s just enjoying her time.”

The reality is different for Kateryna Shapovalova (37), who arrived in Ireland with her young child on December 19th. She now sees Ireland as a temporary refuge and hopes to return to Kyiv in the spring or summer of 2023.

“In Kyiv, I used to be a broadcast journalist on the biggest TV channels in Ukraine. My husband and I had good wages, and we’ve just bought a new big apartment and dreamed about our best future in Ukraine. But then the war came and everything fell apart,” she says.

She spent some time in Poland at the beginning of the war, and then, after the liberation of the Kyiv region, she decided to come back home. Now, with almost every week bringing missile attacks on energy infrastructure in Ukraine and Kyiv in particular, the family decided she had to leave Ukraine again.

“With everyday blackouts, it’s impossible to live a normal life in Kyiv. After the tragedy in Dnipro, I realised that it was a good decision to leave Ukraine,” Shapovalova says.

She is very grateful to Ireland for its help but does not see her future here. With a lack of English language skills, she could work as a cleaner or in sales, but not in her career of journalism.

“Besides that, I miss my husband, I want him to see how our child grows up. My parents also remain in Ukraine, they haven’t seen their granddaughter for a year now. My biggest fear is that they will die and I won’t be able to say goodbye,” says Shapovalova.

Millions of Ukrainians have already returned home and have started to focus on how they can return to normal life once the war is over. For many there was a “shame” to leaving their country behind.

Angelina Medvedieva (24) arrived in Ireland in the spring of 2022 and returned to Ukraine in the autumn of the same year. She relocated to Slovakia as her employers forbade her to work from Ukraine. After quitting the job she was afraid to come back to Kyiv because of the war. Medvedieva saw a vacancy in Ireland for a job helping Ukrainian refugees.

“I thought, I’ll try myself here for a month. It was a compromise between the fear of living in Kyiv and the shame of leaving the country. I seemed to justify myself by volunteering,” she says.

She lived in a hotel in Kilkenny, took the position of receptionist and helped Ukrainian refugees. Life in the hotel was not easy due to the lack of privacy so Medvedieva decided to return to Ukraine. “I understood that I’m young, healthy, I don’t have children, and my parents and home are okay. In Ireland I felt that I’m uprooted from home,” she says.

Surprisingly for her, she feels much better in Ukraine. “Even though I know it’s dangerous here and after the tragedy in Dnipro there is a feeling that this can happen to any of our homes, I adapt. I’m unemployed, always distressed and tense but I’m at home,” she says.

Tetiana Chubata (21), arrived in Ireland in April of 2022. “Firstly, I appreciate very much everything that Ireland does for Ukrainians here. Everyone can see that no country in the EU provides as much support for refugees, not only from Ukraine, as Ireland does,” she says.

Asked whether she would like to stay in Ireland and obtain citizenship or go home, she hesitates. Chubata has had a good start here, has a nice job and sees prospects for development in terms of education and career in Ireland.

However, she misses home and her family very much. “I’m young and I feel that I don’t belong to the Irish land. I would like to build a future in safe Ukraine. I think that it is my duty to return home and help to rebuild everything that Russia destroyed in Ukraine,” she says. “My country will need young, bright and educated individuals and I sincerely want to be one of them.”

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