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Diary of a Ukrainian refugee: ‘I find the whole Red Cross housing affair a joke’

Ksenia Samotiy (20) and her family fled Lviv in late February. Her mum and two siblings are now based in Warsaw while Ksenia is living with her fourth host family in Dublin


Thankful for help and support: Ksenia Samotiy. Photo by Damien Eagers

Thankful for help and support: Ksenia Samotiy. Photo by Damien Eagers

Thankful for help and support: Ksenia Samotiy. Photo by Damien Eagers

My new job is going great. I really love it and it’s a new feeling for me. I enjoyed my work in Ukraine, but this is at a different level.

It is not the first time I’ve been on my own in a different country. The first time, I was 17 and studying in Poland, and while I thought that was exactly what I wanted, it was never really that great. Now it kind of feels like my life is catching up with all those expectations I had back then, but in a brighter and calmer way. Like, I don’t have anything to prove to myself any more. I guess that’s what growing up is.

I still have a lot of things to figure out, but I take great pride in the way I have managed to build my life up here. Even if it wasn’t anything I could ever plan or hope for.

Obviously, people that I’ve met here play a huge role. I could never do any of it if I hadn’t met so many people that were so kind, welcoming, helpful and supportive and just… family. My own family is well. My mum and younger siblings managed to organise a little getaway to the seaside this month.

I am extremely happy for them, because after the six months they’ve had, it’s good to have a week or two to just unwind and relax. Usually, I’d go with them. I miss them immensely but in the circumstances I think I have it as good as possible and I’m genuinely happy where I am right now.

As for the recent heatwave, my new catchphrase is: “I did not move to Ireland for this weather.” I love the cold and I was promised just that. Give me back the cold! Irish people hate it when I say it. But heat is really quite unbearable.

I’ve started going to gigs more. Last week, I saw Arab Strap, a band that my friend introduced me to. I’ve been listening to them for a while but they rarely tour much further than the UK and Ireland, so I’d never get to see them in Ukraine or Poland.

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But mostly I spend weekends at home with my ‘family’ and dogs. We watch car racing and movies. Sometimes we go to parties or have some people over. It’s lovely and calm and homely. I’m very grateful to be part of this atmosphere. So many people don’t get to have their lives so calm and figured after being forced to leave Ukraine.

The housing crisis is the main challenge for Ukrainians in Ireland, I believe. It’s a pity because, apart from that, Ireland has so much to offer.

I’m not pointing fingers, but actually I am. I find the whole Red Cross housing affair a joke. I’m slightly emotional here but I’ve met so many people who mentioned that they registered with the Red Cross and offered their homes for Ukrainians as long ago as March and never heard back, which is ridiculous because it means that there are a lot of people that were willing to host someone but didn’t get a chance to do so, and people on the other side who would really appreciate just a room to sleep in. [The Red Cross has said the process is “complicated” and it would like to see it move “much faster”].

I believe if that could be sorted out, a lot of challenges for both Ukrainian refugees and Irish citizens would be easier to face. I’m not saying that this is easy or that once all the refugees have a place to live, everything will be covered.

That number of refugees is a huge stress on a country, and I acknowledge it. But the Red Cross being an NGO did nothing but really complicate the situation and gave a lot of people false hope, in my humble opinion.

In conversation with Katie Byrne

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