A Ukrainian mother who fled war-torn Kyiv with her six-year-old son is now one of 37 refugees who have been newly trained by a Limerick company as interpreters for refugees trying to access work and healthcare here.
Anna Onyshchenko and her son Artem spent their first five days fleeing the Russian invasion sheltering in a basement in Kyiv, trying to avoid Russian air attacks.
Eventually they made their way to Ireland and are now living in Lisdoonvarna in Co Clare. However, Ms Onyshchenko‘s ex-husband and Artem’s father, Paflo, remains in Ukraine – where he is helping fight the Russian invasion.
“He is in the army at the moment – so, sometimes for a few days, we cannot hear anything from him, but we are trying to make little calls every day ,” said Ms Onyshchenko.
Speaking about 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 some miles outside of Kyiv and there was more bombing, and a bridge was destroyed – and when the gas station was blown up, I understood that I needed to take my son and go somewhere.
“So we spent around three days on the road.
"From I was trying to decide whether to go to Cyprus or to Ireland, but there are no more possibilities for refugees in Cyprus, and because I have a cousin living in Ireland for more than 25 years, I decided to come to Ireland – and I really like it.”
Ms Onyshchenko, who worked as a corporate lawyer in Kyiv, has, along with 36 other Ukrainian refugees in Co Clare, recently qualified as an interpreter. They plan to assist their fellow countrymen and women to engage with Irish employers and healthcare providers.
Limerick firm Translit collaborated with the Clare Local Development Company to provide the training, which was funded by the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (Sicap).
“I heard about opportunities to go on this course and didn’t need to worry about financing it. I saw a lot of authorities and medical centres needed interpreters for Ukrainians.
"A lot of services don't understand the language or emotional meanings [in words], so it’s really interesting and I am helping my community engage with different state bodies,” said Ms Onyshchenko.
Translit chief executive, Alex Chernenko, who hails from Odesa, said there was a great need to provide an interpreter training programme for organisations throughout Ireland who work with Ukrainian refugees.