‘I’ll return to Ukraine when we win the war’ – refugee Alex

People are no longer fleeing to bomb shelters in Ukraine because air raid sirens have become such a part of life, a war refugee based in Ireland has said.

Oleksandra Hromova, 23, was rescued and flown here by Salvation Army officers last March, shortly after the Russian invasion.

She thought this country would provide a safe haven for a few weeks – but this Friday, (Feb24) will join fellow Ukrainians at an event in central Dublin

to mark the grim first anniversary of the conflict.

“At this stage, they are so used to the situation, many people are not going to the bomb shelters anymore,” said Alex.

“There is no fear but they are still angry and upset. War is part of their lives now.”

Salvation Army Ireland officers brought her and her mum Yuliia to safety following a 30-hour trek from their home city of Dnipro to the Polish border.

Their intervention came three years after Alex completed a volunteer programme with the Christian church and charity, during which she worked at its homeless family hubs in Dublin.

Since last March, mother and daughter have lived in church accommodation, while Alex also works full-time at its café on King’s Inns Street.

Her grandmother, two uncles and several friends remain in Dnipro.

“Physically, they are all fine, they have not been hurt, thank God, but in mid-January, there was a massive attack on my city and they (Russia) bombed a house 15 minutes from where I live.”

Although safe from the horrors of war in Dublin, family and friends are constantly on her mind.

An app providing real-time information on the activation of emergency sirens in Ukraine, often keeps her awake at night.

Conflicting emotions also surface when she shares aspects of her life with her friends back home.

“Last week, I bought a beautiful dress and said ‘I have to send a picture to my friends’, then I thought ‘oh no, it’s not a good time for that’. I felt guilty.

“My friends have told me ‘don’t worry, you shouldn’t feel like this, you are allowed to be happy’.

“So I have this conflict with myself quite often.”

As the war in her homeland rages on, it pauses any plans she has to return – but she is determined to travel home “when we win”.

She is involved with the Ukrainian Action in Ireland event, Fighting for Europe –  One Year of Russian war against Ukraine, taking place at the GPO at 2pm this Friday.

Similar events are planned for Cork, Limerick, Galway, Longford, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny and Tralee, with details on the group’s Facebook page.

“It is simply to show people we are still here and doing everything we can to support the Ukrainian community in Ireland and back home,” said Alex.

“We are also hoping to fundraise for people who need it right now.

“For me, it’s great to have the spiritual community of The Salvation Army around, I can feel and see their support every day.

“They are there, no matter what. They have given me everything I have right now.”

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