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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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Ireland’s oldest citizen has Killarney connections

Ireland’s oldest woman met with President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin this week. Máirín Hughes, who turned 109 on May 22 has strong Killarney connections. The previous record […]




Ireland’s oldest woman met with President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin this week.

Máirín Hughes, who turned 109 on May 22 has strong Killarney connections.

The previous record was held by 107-year-old Nancy Stewart who died on September 10 2021.

Although born in Belfast, Máirín went to school in the Mercy Convent. Her father was a customs and excise officer and the family moved around a lot eventually coming to Killarney after spells in County Down and Dublin.

Her mother came from the Rathmore area and her father was from Newmarket in County Cork.

She attended the Mercy Convent and has, in previous interviews, recalled growing up on the shores of Lough Lein.

“Neighbours who had three children were given the job of taking me to school,” she said. “They were annoyed because the children were going to school for two or three years but I was put in to the same class as them – my mother had taught me.”

In 2021 she featured in the book ‘Independence Memories: A People’s Portrait of the Early Days of the Irish Nation’, sharing stories of being kept in school in Killarney during an attack on the RIC barracks down the road.

In 1924 she started a degree in science and a diploma in education at University College Cork, before working in the pathology lab in University College Cork’s Department of Medicine for 16 years.

last year she recalled her story on the podcast: ‘Living History – Irish Life and Lore’.

During the broadcast she talked about her parents’ membership of the Gaelic League in 1910; the Spanish Flu in Ireland in 1918; The Black and Tans in Killarney in 1921; the early days of the new Free State; Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 1932, visiting the Basket Islands in 1929; and working in the UCC medical laboratory from 1932 until 1948.

This week President Michael D. Higgins hosted an afternoon tea event to celebrate the important role that a variety of people have and can play in different communities and Máirín was among the guests of honour.

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Philip is running over 100kms for Cancer charity

Local runner and charity fundraiser Philip Kissane is set for the biggest challenge of his career as he lines up for the Cork City Marathon on Sunday. Phillip has already […]




Local runner and charity fundraiser Philip Kissane is set for the biggest challenge of his career as he lines up for the Cork City Marathon on Sunday.

Phillip has already completed four half marathons at various locations around Killarney – all in aid of Kerry Cancer Support Group – or the Cancer Bus as it popularly called.

This is the second time that Phillip has run four half marathon and an official race for the charity.

Back in 2021 he finished with 5km Run Killarney event but his finishing race this time around is over eight times the distance at 42kms.

“We are delighted with Philip’s continued fundraising support but also with his awareness raising for the charity,” Breda Dyland, Service Manager Kerry Cancer Support Trust.

“We are getting busier all the time and still get no statutory funding so are dependent on fundraisers like Philip’s to keep us on the road. We have just put our new wheelchair accessible bus on the Cork route so Philip’s funding will be going towards the operation of this vehicle.”


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