To Russia with Love – Debbie

“I spent 25 years travelling between Ireland and the orphanages in Bryansk, Russia. Many of the children I met in the beginning of my charity journey, ‘To Russia with Love’, are now young adults; many in hiding, many at the front line, and some dead. Through our charity, we got heavily involved in these magnificent children’s lives and have stayed in touch to this day. Our interventions have made an unbelievable difference which was recognised in Russia and internationally as well. Previously, there used to be a statistic which said that about 97% of Russian orphans end up re-institutionalised, whether it be prison or steered towards the army. We have worked hard to help many of these children stand on their own feet, have families, and many have become very successful in life. Orphans sadly make good soldiers, because when they go missing nobody notices really. There are no mothers crying or complaining. They are many orphans on the front lines today. Because they grow up institutionalised, they easily believe the propaganda and are completely brainwashed about the reasons they are going to fight. The ones that are able to call me, proudly tell me that they are on their way to save us from the Nazis. They believe that this is a ‘special military operation’. They truly believe it. I can’t argue with them. I tried. I only ask them to try to stay safe and don’t do anything stupid. One of the boys who was wounded, shot twice, called me from the hospital to tell me that he was going back as soon as he recovers and he just wants us to know how grateful he is for the Irish and for all we have done for them. One of our boys died on the front line in the second week of the war. We sent someone to collect his belongings after his funeral from his tiny one-bedroom flat. The only pictures on the wall of his living room were the photos of the summer he spent in Ireland when he was a child. Since the first Ukrainians arrived to Ireland, I have been involved in helping them. I don’t see borders. I don’t care where people come from when they need help. I do believe there is propaganda on both sides sadly. I just can’t get my head around why nobody is talking about peace.”