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David Raleigh
Refugees

Ukrainian lawyer in Limerick has 'lost all contact' with relatives who stayed behind in war zone

32-year-old Anna Kovner said she has found solace in meeting others from her country who escaped the conflict.

UKRAINIAN LAWYER ANNA Kovner fled the war on February 24th as Russian troops began the invasion.

Fighting back tears, Kovner, 32, sat in the waiting area of the Limerick Ukraine Support Centre, Dominick Street, hoping to get a PPS number, and financial and accommodation assistance while waiting out the war.

She was born in the Donetsk region but was based in Kyiv.

“I left behind everything, I took just my laptop and my documents that’s all. I have an apartment in the Donetsk region and a house and now I actually don’t know if it is still there,” says Kovner.

She becomes emotional when asked if any of her close family were left behind in Ukraine.

She “lost all connection with my relatives there” and she does not know if they are still alive.

Fleeing Kyiv as Russian troops encircled its outlying towns and villages was as traumatic as it sounds, she offers:

The war had started and as I had no relatives in Kyiv, and my friends lived in another region, and I lost my work in Kyiv, of course, so I had no money staying there.

Some friends in Ireland told her to come here to get help and that she would “be safe here, so I decided to move here”.

“My journey took five days, it was really difficult and hard for my mental health, I was alone,” she said.

I didn’t expect it, but the people travelling on the train and the buses, in the train stations, in the hostels, everybody helped me and I met so many other people, and we are now staying in touch and support each other via the Internet.

Watching the rolling news coverage of her home country being destroyed by Vladimir Putin’s Russian war machine has been “heartbreaking” she says.

“I have seen everything, but I try to control my consumption of the news because I can’t see this everyday, because for me it is enough for me to see the headline, and my heart is breaking, it’s really hard”.

Kovner has found solace in meeting others who have escaped the conflict. She and fellow refugee Ludmyla Zhuk, (55), waited together for assistance in the Limerick Ukraine Support Centre.

It was officially opened last Monday and visited by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

Becoming emotional, Zhuk, 55, says they “want to return to Ukraine in safety and to remain an independent country and for all our family and relatives to be well”.

“We appreciate the help Ireland and Irish people are giving us, it’s really important for us.”

Speaking at the centre Minister McEntee said many Ukraine children have made the journey to Ireland on their own.

“Unfortunately we have had quite a number of young people arriving on their own, I met one young man, only 15 years old, who had arrived from Ukraine about two week ago, and they are all being met by Tusla, whether they come in through Dublin Airport, Rosslare, or Shannon etc, and if there are any other types of supports or requirements needed then these are provided there and then,” said the Minster.

“Obviously we also try and make contact with either parents and guardians because some of these children have been sent here by their parents to keep them safe – others unfortunately are in more tragic situations, but Tusla then take over in terms of accommodation and making sure the right supports are in place.”

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