A Ukrainian mother who fled war-torn Kyiv with her six-year-old son is now among 37 refugees newly trained by a Limerick firm as interpreters for refugees trying to access work and healthcare here.
nna Onyshchenko and her son Artem spent their first five days fleeing the Russian invasion by sheltering in a basement in Kyiv, trying to avoid Russian air attacks.
Eventually they made it to Ireland and now live in Lisdoonvarna in County Clare. However, Ms Onyshchenko’s ex-husband and Artem’s father, Paflo, remains in Ukraine – where he is helping to fight off the Russian invasion.
“He’s in the army at the moment – so sometimes for a few days you don’t hear anything from him, but we try to make small calls every day,” Ms Onyshchenko said.
Speaking of the early days of the invasion, she said: “We spent five days in a basement and it wasn’t safe to go home. Then we moved a few kilometers from Kyiv and there was more shelling, and a bridge was destroyed – and when the gas station exploded, I realized that I had to take my son and go somewhere go.
“So we spent about three days on the road.
“Since I was trying to decide whether to go to Cyprus or Ireland, but there were no more opportunities for refugees in Cyprus, and because I have a cousin who has lived in Ireland for over 25 years , I decided to come to Ireland – and I really like it.”
Ms. Onyshchenko, who has worked as a corporate lawyer in Kyiv, has, along with 36 other Ukrainian refugees in Co Clare, recently graduated as an interpreter. They plan to help their compatriots engage with Irish employers and healthcare providers.
Limerick company Translit worked with the Clare Local Development Company to deliver the training, which was funded by the Social Inclusion and Community Activation (Sicap) programme.
“I heard about opportunities to take this course and didn’t have to worry about funding it. I saw that many authorities and medical centers needed interpreters for Ukrainians.
“Many services do not understand the language or emotional meanings [in words]so it’s really interesting and I’m helping my community to engage with different public bodies,” Ms. Onyshchenko said.
Translit chief executive Alex Chernenko, from Odessa, said there was a great need to provide an interpreter training program for organizations across Ireland working with Ukrainian refugees.