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Tánaiste pays tribute to Ukrainian man who died after leaving 'second home' Ireland to fight

Oleksandr’s friend Alex Cucuet said he was an energetic and funny person.

Image: GoFundMe

Updated Apr 7th 2022, 1:30 PM

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR expressed his condolences to the family of a Ukrainian man who lived in Ireland for over 20 years and who died after travelling back to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country.

Oleksandr Zavhorodniy, who worked for an Aldi in Sandyford for 8 years, is reported to have died on 30 March in the Donbas region of Ukraine. 

Varadkar said that on behalf of the Irish Government he wanted to express his  condolences to the friends and family of the 45-year-old man who lived in Stillorgan. 

“He sadly lost his life there defending his home country Ukraine from Russian attack. I just wanted to express our condolences to his friends and family on his death and acknowledge his bravery in going there to fight for his country,” he said.

“He fell as a hero on the battlefield,” said Varadkar.

In a statement sent to The Journal, Donald Mackay, Regional Managing Director, Aldi Ireland said Oleksandr was “a valued and much-loved member of the Aldi team for over eight years”.

“He was a great asset to the company and will be greatly missed.

We are all shocked by this news and our thoughts are with Oleksandr’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“Aldi has made counselling services available to all colleagues impacted by this terrible news and will be offering supports to Oleksandr’s immediate family.”

A GoFundMe page set up to support Oleksandr’s family and to cover funeral costs said that “his kindness and cracking sense of humour” would be missed.

“He found his second home [in Ireland],” the post said. “His heart, however, remained in Ukraine, and that’s why he chose to go back – to protect his country and its people.” 

Oleksandr’s friend Alex Cucuet said he was an energetic and funny person who was “always the first one to be in front of everything that needs to be organised”. 

He told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland that Oleksandr was buried yesterday.

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“We managed to sort out and make it happen somehow even though the place is not believable,” he said.

“The place doesn’t look nice at all but we still managed to bury him in a place called the ‘alley of heroes’.”

Cucuet said he and other friends “were all worried” when Oleksandr went to Ukraine “but at the same time, after everything that has happened, we kind of understand what was in his heart”. 

He was keeping in contact through messaging apps, but no contact was heard from him since 22 March. 

“He was sending us pictures with him and the weapons and the food he was eating and the places he was” before going silent last month, Cucuet said.

Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer. 

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