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“You feel powerless as there’s very little you can do”




Killarney based Ukrainian couple fear for family's safety

WORRIED: Vladimir (Vova) Bilokhvost and his wife Sophia who live in Killarney are worried for their families in Ukraine as the war escalates.

By Michelle Crean

A Ukrainian couple who have lived in Killarney for just over 20 years fear for the safety of their loved ones as the war escalates in Ukraine.

Russian President Putin's troops have been murdering innocent people including children and bombing buildings such as a children's and a maternity hospital in various cities including Kharkiv, Maripola and Kyiv in a bid to take control of the country over the past fortnight.

Each day the situation becomes harder to watch for Vladimir (Vova) Bilokhvost and his wife Sophia as they worry about their families in Poltava which is 100kms from Kharkiv - currently one of the hotspots of the war.

"It's very worrying," Vova, a food and beverage manager in the Gleneagle Hotel, told the Killarney Advertiser.

"Both our parents, my sisters, brothers are there and Sophia's mother and aunt. It's very worrying. You feel powerless as there's very little you can do. It's very stressful and depressing."

Vova, whose children Alexandra (17) and Andrew (9) were born and reared in Killarney, said they are in constant contact with family every day. Poltava, he explained is 100kms from Kharkiv and his family still have access to food, water and the Internet.

"Poltava is OK for now as Kharkiv is standing strong. They [his parents] go to the basement five or six times a day or more when the alarms sound. Hopefully they [Russians] won't advance."

Vova, who said he and his wife will open their home to a Ukrainian family in the next few weeks, thanked the people of Killarney for their continued compassion and support.

"We're getting huge support here. We have a few families, about seven, who have volunteered to take people in."

Speaking of Putin, Vova added that he never imagined that the war would actually happen.

"I could never believe it until the very last second it happened. He is a very damaged man. I would compare him to the worst in history."



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.


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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. 

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