Daryna – for Ukraine

“I was born in Lviv, which is in the western part of Ukraine, very close to the Polish border. I spent the good part of my childhood there. My parents moved to Ireland when I was three after the country gained independence. Like many others, they went to try their luck for a better future for us. In the meantime, I lived with my grandparents and all my memories are very bright and positive for those years. We lived in Truskavets in one of those typical ten-story apartment blocks from the Soviet era, but the town itself was a resort town, full of historic buildings and beautiful parks. People tend to have negative associations with these buildings, but to me, they were an amazing, bustling community; full of children where everybody knew each other. Despite loving my life in Lviv, I always missed my parents and when I was finally able to move to Ireland, I was very excited. I had all these preconceptions about what Ireland would be like, but after a few weeks of a reality check, I became a bit disappointed. The weather was always bad and without any English, it was hard to communicate with the other children. I soon began to miss my friends and my grandparents. I think for the first few years in Ireland I really really wanted to go back. I could not wait for my summer holidays to see my grandparents, my cousins and all my friends again.”

“Granny passed away a little over three years ago. She had terminal cancer which wasn’t really communicated to me; so, when she passed, I was really shocked. It was my first experience with death and after that, I was really worried that my grandad would be lonely, especially when the pandemic hit. He lost a lot of his friends and relatives because of the virus… It’s been a rough few years for him. I tried to contact him as much as I could and I sent him a lot of postcards, but then, when the news started about a possible invasion, all I could think was to get him out from there. He is 74 soon, not in the best of health so he wouldn’t be of much use there. I called him and tried to convince him multiple times to come to Ireland, but he is very stubborn. He lived most of his life in that apartment and I didn’t want to leave. I was so worried that at some point I jokingly threatened to kidnap him if he didn’t agree. He was concerned about the costs of bringing him here and that he would be a weight on our shoulders, but I told him we had plenty of space and I could not wait to see him. It took a while but he eventually agreed.”

“There was a taxi driver who dropped him off at the border. That driver is a friend who used to take them to their hospital appointments. He had to wait over three hours in the cold at the border to cross and, because of a miss-match in timing and the phone lines down, we could not locate him for hours. We had to literarily walk from tent to tent calling his name until we eventually found him. He was very stressed out and tired, but glad to see us. I know how lucky we are to have Ireland to call a second home, but most people in Ukraine don’t have a second option. They only have the place where they grew up and the idea of leaving it behind is very distressing. Many of them are exchanging the comforts of their homes to sleep in makeshift tents and schools and gyms. I want people to know that Ukraine is not what people generally think it to be. It is not Russia. There are no ethnic Russian parts of Ukraine – it’s not all about Chernobyl, poverty and the eminence of the Soviet Union. Most people in Ukraine lived normal lives up until last week. They had friends, families, they were planning to go to university, to get married or to go on a holiday. Their lives have been taken from them from one day to another and many of them are dying because of Russia’s acts.”

Daryna and her friends in Trinity College started a campaign carrying out a series of fundraiser events to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.