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“Music is our strength” say talented musical family

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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.

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Sofia Yershova. Photo: Alex Homenko

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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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The Irish investment market is pathetic

By Michael O’Connor, theislandinvestor.com    I lived abroad for years, so all the investment strategies I created were typically outside of Irish tax considerations. But over the last few weeks I […]

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By Michael O’Connor, theislandinvestor.com   

I lived abroad for years, so all the investment strategies I created were typically outside of Irish tax considerations.

But over the last few weeks I have been putting together several investment strategies for Irish-domiciled clients. It has been eye-opening, to say the least.

In short, most of the Irish market appears to be dominated by a handful of life insurance companies that offer ‘wrapped’ Multi Asset Funds. This means they offer a basket of stocks, bonds, property etc., all within one investment.

Irish Life’s MAPs 4 multi-asset fund states a standard annual management charge of 1.15%. A bit on the higher side for my liking, but this is still manageable.

But when you dig a little deeper, the KID documents (where all fees have to be fully disclosed as part of UCITS regulations) show the fee as 2.2%.

Double the quoted price

As an added bonus, they lock your money up for seven years, where an early encashment charge is waiting for those who wish to withdraw their money early. That’s right, they charge YOU for making your money inaccessible.

This lock-up period is a shrewd business tactic. An exit charge is an excellent way to ensure customers don’t leave when they realise how poor the performance is.

Too late, you’re trapped.

Performance

Fees become more digestible provided the performance is strong, but unfortunately, the misery continues.

The Irish Life MAPS 4 Portfolio has an annual return of 1.63% a year over the last five years. Granted, this was a challenging market climate to navigate, but falling below even the lowest expectations of inflation means that this fund has returned negative real returns after inflation over the last five years.

A similar 60/40 portfolio made up of passive index funds (S&P 500 and US T bonds) would have returned roughly 6.5% a year over the same period for a fee of roughly 0.1%.

We can go round and round in circles regarding the ‘risk adjusted’ approach and the added ‘diversification’ of the multi-asset fund versus the 60/40 portfolio I have shown. But the reality is much of this so-called diversification is over-engineering for an extra cost for many long term investors.

So, how can such pathetic offerings still exist in a system where low-cost operators such as De Giro are providing endless ETF options and commission-free trades that provide access to market returns at a fraction of the price?

Two reasons spring to mind

Firstly, the Irish retail investment scene is built on a financial broker commission system where unsuspecting customers are shoved into these products by ‘financial planners’ who receive kickbacks and commissions from these investment companies. You think you’re getting free investment advice; believe me, you’re not.

Second, the tax treatment of ETF structures is comical in Ireland, and US ETFs aren’t even an investment option. A 41% exit tax and an eight-year deemed disposal rule leaves investors stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Choose an overpriced, underperforming product that locks your money away for multiple years or choose the cheaper, better-performing product and suffer the tax consequences.

Bizarrely, investors are forced to make decisions based on preferential tax treatment rather than on the underlying investment’s merits.

I have gone into much more detail on the tax treatment and investment options in Ireland on my website. Just scan the QR code.

If you would like me to independently review your investment portfolio, just send me an email at mike@theislandinvestor.com.

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Rebel lights delight for Killarney star

By Con Dennehy The continued growth, development and participation of women’s handball in East Kerry was rewarded at the weekend when Cork hosted ‘She’s Ace’, the prestigious All Ladies Handball […]

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By Con Dennehy

The continued growth, development and participation of women’s handball in East Kerry was rewarded at the weekend when Cork hosted ‘She’s Ace’, the prestigious All Ladies Handball championships.

Attracting all the leading players in Ireland, it was Sarah Dineen, the Spa/Killarney player who shot out the Rebel lights in Conna with a phenomenal display of handball.

Competing in the highly competitive Ladies Challenger championship, the Killarney player, who took up the sport just 18 months ago, had the perfect start in the competition defeating the home town favourite Agnes Hurley from Conna on a 21-20 scoreline following an energy sapping and close encounter that hung in the balance to the final ace.

In her second game she took on the challenge of Nolwenn Even from St Brigids where her skill, superior fitness and movement on the court resulted in the 21-12 victory and a place in the prestigious final.

“The final was always going to be a difficult game not least playing local girl Kate O’Riordan from Conna. I concentrated on my serve and kill shots which ensured we shared the aces early in the game. It was a difficult game with the home supporters out in force to cheer on their local hero. However, I played well and secured a 21-11 victory. This was the second time this title came to Spa Killarney following the 2022 win by Aoife Walsh in Northern Ireland,” said Sarah, who is currently chairperson of the Killarney Camogie Club.

A native of Westmeath, Sarah (46) runs a jewellery business in Killarney and lives in Rathmore. No stranger to competitive sport she played camogie for Westmeath and Leinster and also won an Intermediate championship Gaelic football medal in Westmeath.

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