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Olga Tkachenko: My resilience in life is the ability to see only the good

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Olga Tkachenko and I run five kilometres every Saturday with the Killarney House Parkrun.

This fragile and smiling woman always runs easily and beats me every time.

It seems that everything in her life is as easy as jogging.

But this is not quite so.

Olga grew up in Donetsk city, Donbass region. Her sister Maryna and parents lived here. A large and friendly family, they owed a holiday home in the region and would gather there for vacations and holidays. This house was a symbol of this family.

In 2014, Russian troops entered Donetsk and drove their military equipment right into the yard of the house.

From here they started shelling the Donetsk airport.

Soon the house was completely destroyed. All that remains of the house are two walls and a few pots. The family nest was devastated. Her sister Maryna tried to save the surviving property and came under fire. Fortunately, she was not injured.

Olga moved her parents to another place, and she went to Kyiv with her husband and children. All they took with them were two laptops and a few warm things. Life had to start from scratch.

Olga's sister Maryna moved to Dnipro city, where she found a new job.

The sisters went their separate ways, but still maintained a very close relationship, calling and supporting each other every day.

Maryna's husband and Olga's husband are brothers and share the same last name – Tkachenko.

They have children two months apart. Olga jokes that she and her sister have a topic to talk about - their common father-in-law and mother-in-law.

Having lost their homes in 2014 due to Russia's military aggression in Donbas, the sisters built their lives in two different cities - Irpen (near Kyiv) and Dnipro. But when the war broke out in 2022, they found themselves together again.

The sisters managed to board an evacuation train bound for Poland. Again, they only had one bag each and a one-way ticket.

"Fear drove us as far as possible. The main goal was to save the children. We did not know where we were going. We wanted to escape as far as possible from the war and the borders of Russia," says Olga.

After staying in a refugee camp in Poland for several days, they decided to go to Ireland.
Were they worried about going into the unknown?

But Olga says that when she is together with her sister, it gives both women confidence and stability. Together, it's not so scary anymore.

Olga says that it is impossible to get used to the fact that you lose your home every time and get used to life. It is impossible to accept that everything has to be started from new.

But she has one secret of resilience - the ability to see the good in the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Here in Killarney Olga focuses on the beautiful nature, she learns a new language, and goes jogging. She never regrets.

Olga's sister Maryna Tkachenko has already found a job and works in as a designer in Killarney. The sisters help each other a lot and are very worried about their parents and grandmother, who remaine in Ukraine.

"Our parents spent a month under the occupation of Russian troops in a village near Kyiv. My 70-year-old mother, as in 2014, went to negotiate with Russian soldiers and persuaded them not to shoot. We are glad that our parents' house survived this time. Because in 2014 we already lost one home. Our parents would not have survived this a second time," adds Olga.

That is why she will soon go back to Ukraine.

She explains her motives: "I want to be where I am most needed. My eldest daughter, parents and grandmother are in Ukraine. My daughter works as a volunteer every week, clearing the rubble of buildings, so I want to help my country as well. After dismantling the ruins, we will see our beautiful country again."

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 www.owenoshea.ie.

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