By Natalya Krasnenkova
Today (Friday) marks a full year since Russia's invasion of Ukraine which saw millions of people flee for their lives.
Countries across Europe opened their doors offering safety, jobs and a place in schools for their children to settle and learn without fear.
This week the Killarney Advertiser spoke to Alina Balan who tells us about the horrors they saw and the heartbreak of leaving her husband behind to fight for the country's freedom.
Viktor Balan is now defending Ukraine in the ranks of the armed forces and Alina is now safe in Ireland protecting their children from the war.
Alina came to Killarney with their daughters Katya (13) and Zlata (6) from the city Vinnytsia in central Ukraine on March 24. They are currently staying in the Towers Hotel.
She recalls that February 24 last year turned their family's life upside down.
"From that day on, all our plans and dreams were completely destroyed," she told the Killarney Advertiser.
"Before the war, we had a happy life and big plans for the future. In Ukraine, I worked with documentation in an automobile company. My husband, Viktor, worked in a construction company and was actively involved in sports. Our daughters Katya and Zlata attended school, kindergarten and various clubs, and especially loved to do gymnastics. Our dogs Ricci and Busia were an integral part of our family. Every evening we had a tradition of gathering for dinner together and sharing events. Every weekend we went to visit our relatives and also travelled. Our family liked to lead an active lifestyle."
The Balan family still clearly remember the terrible morning of February 24. They saw explosions in the city, the deaths of civilians and the destruction of houses shown on TV every day. Alina’s husband could not stand aside and decided to join the Armed Forces in order to protect his family and the Motherland.
"Frankly speaking, my husband's decision was very difficult for me. But later I realised that he acted like a real man, a defender of his country. I fully support him in this difficult time for us," Alina recalls.
After her husband left for the war, it was very difficult for Alina to stay alone with the two children who were frightened by the constant sounds of sirens which, as a result, they experienced anxiety and stress.
One morning after loud explosions near the house where the Balan family lived, they decided to go from Vinnytsia. Alina understood that the safety of her children was the most important thing.
"In a matter of minutes I packed our whole life into three backpacks. We didn't even know where to go. Fortunately, my director invited us to her home. That's how we ended up in West Ukraine. But it was dangerous there too; the same sirens and rocket attacks."
After consulting her husband she decided to go to Ireland with the children. This also took some stress from Victor as he knows they are in a safe place.
"Now I only worry about him," says Alina.
The road to Ireland was quite emotionally difficult for her and the children. Despite the exhaustion from the trip, Alina was finally calm, because they were safe. The family is lucky enough to find themselves in the picturesque town of Killarney, where they adapt to life. The girls attend school and spend a lot of time in nature with their mother.
Alina is interested in the history of Ireland and finds a lot in common with the history of Ukraine. She is impressed by kindness, sincerity and care of the people of Killarney.
"Wherever we turned, we were helped - this is impressive," added Alina.
"No matter where we are now, no matter how much we suffer due to separation from my husband, the main thing is - the greatest force in the world - love - warms us inside. During this time, we clearly understood that you can't postpone life for later. We need to appreciate every minute."
Alina's daughters miss their dad very much. They recently visited him in Ukraine during Viktor's short vacation.
"Honey, it's your birthday soon. We will remember most carefully the desire for the fastest victory. We love you very much, I'm sure we will soon hug you. We are proud of you. Ukraine is a great nation of indomitable people united for each other, for freedom and victory," Alina conveys her greetings.
Віктор Балан зараз захищає Україну в лавах збройних сил України, а його дружина Аліна захищає їхніх дітей від війни в Ірландії.
Аліна Балан приїхала в Кіларні з доньками Катя (13) та Злата (6) з міста Вінниця (Центральна Україна).
Аліна згадує, що 24 лютого минулого року перевернуло життя їхньої родини: “Починаючи з цього дня всі наші плани та мрії були повністю зруйновані. До початку війни в нас було щасливе життя та великі плани на майбутнє. В Україні я працювала з документацією в автомобільній компанії. Мій чоловік – Віктор, працював у будівельній компанії та активно займався спортом. Наші доньки Катя та Злата
відвідували школу, садочок та різноманітні гуртки особливо полюбляли
займатись гімнастикою. Наші собаки Річчі та Буся були невід’ємною частиною
нашої сім’ї. Щовечора у нас була традиція збиратись за вечерею та ділитись подіями
дня. Кожні вихідні ми їздили навідати наших родичів, а також подорожували. Наша сім’я любила вести активних спосіб життя”.
Родина Балан досі чітко пам’ятає жахливий ранок 24 лютого. Вони бачили вибухи в місті, по телевізору щодня показували загибель мирних людей, руйнування будинків. Тоді чоловік Віктор не міг стояти осторонь і ухвалив рішення вступити в ЗСУ, аби захищати свою сім’ю, Батьківщину.
“Відверто кажучи, мені рішення чоловіка далось
дуже важко. Та згодом я зрозуміла, що він вчинив як справжній чоловік та
захисник своєї країни. Я повністю підтримую його в цей нелегкий для нас
час”, - згадує Аліна.
Після того, як чоловік пішов на війну, Аліні було дуже важко залишитися самій з двома
дітьми. Від постіних звуків сирен діти та Аліна були налякані та пережили тривогу та
Одного ранку після гучних вибухів неподалік будинку де жила родини Балан, вони
вирішили поїхати з Вінниці. Аліна розуміла, що безпека її дітей – це найважливіше.
“За лічені хвилини все наше життя я зібрала в три рюкзаки. Ми навіть не знали куди
їхати. На щастя, нас запросила до себе моя директорка. Так ми опинились на Західній
Україні. Але і тут було небезпечно, ті самі сирени та ракетні обстріли. Порадившись з
чоловіком, ми вирішили поїхати з дітьми до Ірландії. Моєму чоловікові
нарешті стало спокійно за нас. Він знає що ми перебуваємо в безпечному місці. Тепер я хвилююсь тільки за нього”, - каже Аліна.
Дорога до Ірландії була досить емоційно важкою для Аліни та дітей. Попри виснаженість від подорожі, Аліна була нарешті спокійна, адже вона та діти опинились в безпеці. Родині пощастило потрапити в мальовниче містечко Кіларні, де вони адаптуються до життя.
Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes
Fossa National School is giving its pupils a headstart in learning a new language.
The school signed up to Language Sampler scheme as part of the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ initiative in primary schools organised by Post Primary languages Ireland in 2021. This is the school’s third year running the module.
Hélène Olivier-Courtney, the school’s French teacher and director of French For All Killarney School of French, covers ten schools in Kerry over the three terms.
The success of the initiative relies on an all-school approach and the active involvement of class teachers and management.
“The whole staff in Fossa certainly helped make this new journey a special and enjoyable experience for the children as we learnt French through art, songs, games and food tasting! This year, we also organised a catwalk on our last day. Our sixth-class students will have such a head start before secondary school and most importantly will have develop curiosity interest and love for the language,” said Hélène.
Opinion: Silent majority needs to stand up and call out far-right hate
By Chris Davies
Last Friday’s Dublin Riots should not have come as a surprise to anyone. It has been bubbling under the surface of Irish society for a good number of years now. The actions of a small minority last week was a culmination of years of racism, hatred and misinformation shared online by far-right groups.
Late on Friday night a disturbing WhatsApp voice note was doing the rounds on social media where a far-right actor could clearly be heard encouraging violence on the streets of Dublin.
“’Seven o’clock, be in town. Everyone bally up, tool up…Any foreigner, just kill them”
Watching the Riots unfold on social media brought me back to when I was working in Dublin a number of years back. My morning commute from Skerries to the city centre involved a dart to Connolly Station followed by a short trip on the Luas to the Jervis. Every week, without fail, I would witness at least one racial slur or attack on someone who didn’t fit the narrow minded view of what an Irish person should look, dress or talk like. I don’t know if it is the eerie silence of public transport that seems to amplify the situation, but that’s where I found it to be most common. The abuse was usually perpetrated by a group of youths or someone who was clearly under the influence of drink or drugs. The victims were always of colour, often dressed smartly enough to presume they were on their way, or coming from work. A far cry from the perpetrators who you could tell were roaming aimlessly around the city looking for trouble.
While shameful to admit, I would often look on and watch the abuse unfold, only to spend the rest of my work day thinking about the poor person who was told to “F*&K off back to your own country”. I would sit at my desk questioning why I didn’t step in and say something. There were one or two occasions where I did step in and call it out, but not nearly often enough.
This disgusting behaviour is much more visible in our cities. Since moving back to Killarney I wouldn’t witness as much direct abuse on the streets but working with the Killarney Advertiser I would be tuned in to local news and some of the comments I read on our social platforms are far worse than anything I witnessed during my time in Dublin.
There is a significant group of people in Ireland that I would call the ‘silent majority’. We are not as outspoken on issues we care about. We tend to observe and consume the news quietly, and only speak of our support or disgust on certain issues in close circles, too afraid we might offend someone. The problem with this is that we are leaving these far-right groups unchallenged, to become louder, more aggressive and more hostile as seen last week.
The past week Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats have been busy in the media expressing no confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris but I would suggest that there is a large percentage of the Irish population that bears some of the responsibility. We witness racism in our communities and online every day and we need to start speaking up and calling it out.
On the issue of immigration in Killarney, there is no doubt resources are being stretched and our tourism industry is suffering as a result of an influx of immigration. Locals have also raised concerns in relation to the placement of so many male international protection applicants in one setting and we only have to look back on the incident in Hotel Killarney last year where a number of men were involved in a harrowing stabbing incident to see how that played out.
However, being concerned around immigration is not the same as anti-immigration. It is important to raise these issues with local representatives and Kerry TD’s but also to separate ourselves from far-right groups who are only interested in encouraging violence.
The anarchy we witnessed last week should never be the answer and research shows it is completely unnecessary. Harvard University have looked at hundreds of protests over the last century, and found that non-violent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns and that it only takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.
Let’s continue to protest peacefully for issues we believe in, but stand up and speak out against people and movements in our community that incite hate and violence.
Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes
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Opinion: Silent majority needs to stand up and call out far-right hate
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