Oleksandra Hromova, 23, and her mother Yuliia, 45, from Dnipro, are now living in Dublin thanks to two Salvation Army officers
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A young Ukrainian woman has been rescued from her war-torn homeland by an Irish church she worked with three years ago.
Oleksandra Hromova, 23, managed to escape to Dublin thanks to Salvation Army officers Tim and Charlotte Lennox.
The former management and economics student first came here in 2019 during a gap year to volunteer with the church and charity – one of the largest providers of homelessness services in the capital.
She never imagined she would be returning so soon – this time fleeing the humanitarian disaster which has ravaged her country and her home city, Dnipro.
And despite the heartache of leaving loved ones behind, she has now offered to volunteer with the charity once more and also works as a barista at its Hub Café on King’s Inns Street.
“I couldn’t cope staying in Ukraine,” said Oleksandra, who has been living in The Salvation Army accommodation in Dublin with her mum Yuliia, 45, since March.
Mother and daughter packed their belongings and set off on a gruelling 30-hour train and bus trek towards the Polish border.
She added: “The airport (in Dnipro) was destroyed, we were living not far from there; that’s what made me move. The airport was bombed a second time during the rescue effort.
“On the very first day of the war, I woke up to explosions, there were four really strong ones and our windows were shaking.
“I was so scared. I was just sitting in the corridor of my apartment, the sirens were going off and I decided I needed to leave.”
Back in Dublin, Captains Tim and Charlotte anxiously waited for news about her – and a second student Alisa, 22, who also worked in the church’s family hubs – but remained in Ukraine.
“We kept in touch the whole time,” said Tim.
“The first thing we did was to phone them both to find out what was going on. We said quite early on, ‘if you need to get out, just know there is a place for you to come to’.
“They are like our family and I couldn’t get it out of my mind for days, I was worried sick.
“It took them 36 hours to get into Poland so we just went ahead and booked a flight for them. We managed to get it all sorted in a 72-hour period.
“Bringing Oleksandra here was not part of our homeless accommodation or refugee projects, it was simply about helping out a fellow church member at the most difficult point in her life.”
“They offered me anything I needed,” said Oleksandra.
“Without their help I couldn’t have left.
“I love Dublin but I don’t want to stay here for 10 years. I really want to go home before the new year, but now, I’m not sure. I’m still afraid that when I go back, I will not feel like I’m in a safe place.”
During her first trip to Dublin on a volunteer visa in September 2019, she worked within The Salvation Army family hubs, homelessness services, ran groups and clubs for young people and developed her leadership skills and faith.