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Friday 20 September 2019

'Magical moment': Chernobyl children touch down for 'special' Christmas

Festive cheer: Sasha Shtepa leads the way as young people from Chernobyl are welcomed by Adi Roche (red dress) and supporters of Chernobyl Children International at Dublin Airport for their annual visit from Belarus. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Festive cheer: Sasha Shtepa leads the way as young people from Chernobyl are welcomed by Adi Roche (red dress) and supporters of Chernobyl Children International at Dublin Airport for their annual visit from Belarus. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

There were scenes of joy at Dublin Airport as a group of 40 children and young adults arrived from Belarus to spend Christmas with their host families.

It's an annual Christmas tradition that has linked families from across the country with victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster for the past three decades.

Adi Roche, voluntary chief executive of Chernobyl Children International, the charity that brings the group here for the rest and recuperation programme, described their arrival as a "magical moment".

The charity raised funds to buy new wheelchairs for two of the children who had outgrown their old ones as a special surprise, she revealed. "I think the volunteer families that are hosting the children this Christmas to me are the unsung heroes. They are really the embodiment of what Christmas is all about," she added.

Ms Roche said President Michael D Higgins will welcome a group of the children and their host families at the Áras today for a Christmas celebration.

Damien Meaney (39) from Bray, Co Wicklow, whose family will welcome four guests this Christmas, said: "I think it is something very special. You can't describe what it means, to see them so happy and excited, that is what it's all about."

Irish Independent

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