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“Music is our strength” say talented musical family




By Natalya Krasnenkova

A friend sent me a video of five violinist girls playing on the streets of Killarney - the girls were Ukrainian, there was no doubt about that.


Sofia Yershova. Photo: Alex Homenko



First, they played the well-known melody of the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk, and secondly, they were dressed in blue and yellow concert dresses - the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Their quintet sounded very well-played and professional, the music performed by the little violinists was mesmerising. I watched this video over and over again. Who are these mysterious girls? So, I started looking for them.

Through Facebook, I found their mother, Olena Yershova. The girls turned out to be sisters: Ksenia (17), Yevlalia (15), Olena (13), Natalka (10), and Sofiyka (6).

We invited the Yershov family to perform in Killarney on the Independence Day of Ukraine on August 24. The girls graced the concert at the ANAM Cultural Centre, where they performed the national anthem of Ukraine, and many classical, folk and modern pieces by Ukrainian composers. All the locals were especially moved by the national anthem of Ireland which the little musicians performed at the end of event. The parts for all instruments were written by the eldest daughter, Ksenia, and their mom and the girls rehearsed the entire programme for the concert in literally two weeks.

"In Ireland, we are carried as if on wings"

The Yershovy sisters, together with their mother Olena and father Maxim, moved to Ireland in March of this year. It was here that their little brother Yaroslav was born three months ago. Now there are six children in the family. Five of them play music: violin, viola, and cello.

The Yershovy family lived in Sevastopol, a city on the shores of the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. Maxim's father was a military naval officer. He was once the best foreign student at the Royal Naval Academy in Britain. Olena's mother used to play music herself, so she encouraged her daughter to play instruments from an early age. Girls learned to play the violin before they could speak. It seemed that they were born already with tools in their hands. Although in reality, behind all achievements there was work, mother's support and good teachers who developed the children's talents.

In 2014, everything changed. Russia annexed Crimea (the southern peninsula) of Ukraine and the family of a military officer were in danger. The Yershovys urgently left their home in Sevastopol and came to Odessa, another sea city that belongs to Ukraine. Their life had to start over, but the first thing their mother found was a music school for her daughters. The future housing had to meet only one critera - it had to be close to the music school.

There the girls had up to five music lessons a week. Daniel Hope, a famous British violinist of Irish, German and Jewish origin, visited the Odessa school more than once. He played with the Yershovy sisters and gave them masterclasses.

However, this year the family had to leave their home again. Olena was already expecting her sixth child at that time. Fate, and the father's friends, decided where the little one would be born. They helped send the large Yershovy family to Ireland and surrounded them with care and support. Olena recalls that they had very few things when they arrived in Ireland but people immediately joined in helping. Friends of the family even created a joint chat where they discussed all the current tasks and possible solutions.

The family currently lives in a quiet house near Listowel with a small garden and a greenhouse, surrounded by a forest - all that Olena dreamed of.

"I have the feeling that someone is carrying me here as if in their arms. In Ireland I constantly feel support from different people. Miracles often happen here, as soon as I think about something, the necessary things appear as if by themselves," Olena tells me.

Violins cannot exist without violins

Arriving in Ireland, the Yershova sisters had no instruments and sheet music, and could not continue playing. And music for them is life. Once the sisters went for a walk, and when they returned, there were two violins lying in the yard. Someone found out that the sisters were musicians and brought instruments. Then the rumour about the little musicians spread and people started bringing violins, violas and even a cello for the youngest Sofia. It was a real miracle, now the house of the Yershovy is filled with music and the coziness and feeling of home reigned there again.

One day, Ksenia, the eldest daughter, was sent a gift. Opening the package, she saw a viola there and it was just the one that was needed! In the package was a touching note from the relatives of the musician, Miriam Owens, who died of cancer six months ago. Relatives decided to present the instrument to a viola player from Ukraine. The instrument from Miriam Owens lives on.

Concert costumes in the colours of the Ukrainian and Irish flags, in which I saw in the video, their mother ordered in an online store. Now the quintet also have great dresses. The Yershovy sisters are being invited to perform at various festivals. Little by little, the girls have become stars. They gladly respond to all invitations, continue rehearsals and classes. And soon they will all also attend classes at the Cork School of Music. They are ready to walk this path in order to improve their skills. Also, for professional lessons, violinists collect funds which also helps in the purchase of new instruments and weekly trips. See Facebook: alenushka12345, the page of Olena's mother, if you would like to help.

The mother of this family, Olena, is an extremely bright, optimistic woman, she smiles all the time. I think that she is the fire of the family, from which the girls' talent unfolds. My last question takes her back to that day when the girls were playing in the streets of Killarney.

"Why did you decide to play a concert on the street that day?" I ask Olena.

"First, we wanted to celebrate the birth of our son, and secondly, we donated all the money we collected that day to the purchase of tactical headphones for the Ukrainian military," she said.

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Jim awarded for life-long service to the community

By Michelle Crean Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with an award for his life-long service to the community. Jim […]




By Michelle Crean

Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with an award for his life-long service to the community.

Jim received the O’Shea Award for 2022 at a meeting of Directors of Listry Community Council held on September 21.

Jim has been involved in Athletics from a very early age both as a competitor and administrator.

He was very much involved with Community Games in Milltown/Listry as organiser and coach. He was also involved with the Farranfore Maine Valley Athletic Club since its foundation.

Over the years Jim has competed in athletic events, mainly high jump and long jump, both in Ireland and abroad.

Recently he travelled to Derby in the UK in the British Masters Championship and won Gold in the 100 metres and Long Jump and finished second in the High Jump.

Jim, who is a very modest man, was actively involved with Listry Community Council as a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels and for his commitment to keeping our community litter free by organising a number of litter picking days each year.

Always interested in fitness, Jim often came along to the Listry Seniors Social day and led the group in gentle exercises.

“Jim is a very worthy recipient of the O’Shea Award 2022 and we thank him for a lifetime of service to others,” Tony Darmody, Chairman, said.

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New book recounts stories from the Irish Civil War

The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922 Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the most shocking murders of the Civil War which occurred in […]




The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922

Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the most shocking murders of the Civil War which occurred in Killarney a century ago this week.

There were many tragic episodes and incidents during the Civil War in Kerry. One of the dreadful features of the conflict was the young age at which many on both sides of the conflict were killed in 1922 and 1923.

In Killarney in August 1922, for example, two young Free State army medics were shot dead by a sniper as they stepped off a boat onto the shore of Inisfallen Island. 18-year-old Cecil Fitzgerald and 20-year-old John O’Meara, both from Galway, had joined the army just a few months previously and were enjoying a boat trip on the lake during a day’s leave when they were killed.

The following month, one of the most shocking deaths to occur in Killarney in this period was the murder of a 17-year-old boy from Castleisland.

Bertie Murphy, a member of Fianna Éireann, the youth wing of the IRA, was just 17-years-old when he was taken into custody by Free State soldiers while walking near his home in September 1922. His mother saw him being taken in away in a truck to the Great Southern Hotel where the army had established its headquarters in the town.

The improvised barracks had a number of prison cells in the basement where anti-Treaty IRA members were detained. The prison would become renowned as a place where beatings and torture took place: a young man whose brother was an IRA captain was taken there and ‘mercilessly beaten to get him to reveal information’. He was then ‘thrown down a coal chute and left as dead’.

On Wednesday, September 27, a Free State army convoy was ambushed by the IRA at Brennan’s Glen on the Tralee road and two officers, Daniel Hannon and John Martin, were killed. Bertie Murphy had been in one of the army vehicles – he was being used by the army as a hostage in an attempt to prevent attacks by anti-Treaty forces. It was common for Free State convoys to carry a prisoner as a deterrent to IRA ambushes and attacks.

When the convoy returned to the hotel, they were met by Colonel David Neligan, one of the most ruthless members of the Kerry Command of the Free State army. Neligan had been a member of Michael Collins’ ‘Squad’ during the War of Independence and was an experienced and battle-hardened soldier.

Neligan demanded to know why the soldiers had not taken any prisoners during the ambush at Brennan’s Glen, in which two of his officers had died. The soldiers, in a frenzy following the ambush, threw Bertie Murphy down the steps of the hotel. In the presence of other soldiers, Neligan began to beat up Murphy at the bottom of the steps and then shot the prisoner. In her book, ‘Tragedies of Kerry’, Dorothy Macardle says that Murphy lived ‘until the priest came’, but died shortly after.

Another prisoner was in custody in the hotel at the time. Con O’Leary from Glenflesk was brought down from his cell to identify the dead man. But so extensive were Murphy’s facial injuries that O’Leary was unable to identify his fellow prisoner.

Newspaper reports wrongly reported that Murphy had been wounded during the engagement at Brennan’s Glen and had ‘succumbed to his injuries’ on returning to Killarney.

At Murphy’s inquest which was held a fortnight later, General Paddy O’Daly, the head of the Kerry Command, sympathised with Murphy’s family but insisted that Murphy had died in the ambush at Brennan’s Glen. He said his soldiers had done ‘everything humanly possible for the man’.

He reminded those present that deaths like Murphy’s were the fault of reckless IRA leaders who refused to accept the authority of the people. ‘It is the women and children’, he said, ‘that are suffering, and for all the suffering that is being endured those leaders are to blame’.

It would not be the last time that O’Daly and senior army officers in Kerry would cover up the actions of their soldiers in the county. Nor, sadly, would it be the last time that young men, on both sides of the divide, joined the long list of victims of the Civil War in the county.

Owen O’Shea’s new book, ‘No Middle Path: The Civil War in Kerry’ will be published by Merrion Press in mid-October and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon and at

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