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Meet the Ukrainian woman given a free unit in Dublin’s George’s Street arcade to run her nail bar

Anna Krys said: ‘I will always remember the kindness shown to me here – my grandchildren will know about the story of Ireland’

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Anna Krys with her colleagues Nataliya Anosova and Olga Davydova at U Beauty in George's Street Arcade, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anna Krys with her colleagues Nataliya Anosova and Olga Davydova at U Beauty in George's Street Arcade, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anna Krys, from Ukraine, at her nail bar U Beauty at George's Street Arcade in Dublin. Georges Street Arcade have provided Anna with a unit in the arcade rent-free. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anna Krys, from Ukraine, at her nail bar U Beauty at George's Street Arcade in Dublin. Georges Street Arcade have provided Anna with a unit in the arcade rent-free. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anna Krys with her colleagues Nataliya Anosova and Olga Davydova at U Beauty in George's Street Arcade, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anna Krys with her colleagues Nataliya Anosova and Olga Davydova at U Beauty in George's Street Arcade, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

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Anna Krys with her colleagues Nataliya Anosova and Olga Davydova at U Beauty in George's Street Arcade, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

A Ukrainian businesswoman has praised the “incredible kindness” of Irish people after she was given a rent-free unit by the landlords of Dublin’s George’s Street Arcade.

Anna Krys (33), from Odessa, previously lived in Ireland for four years, where she worked in IT, before returning to Ukraine in 2019. She has now opened a nail bar, called U Beauty, in the popular city centre mall, employing four Ukrainian nationals.

The Layden Family Group, owners of the landmark Victorian building, had sought expressions of interest from Ukrainians wishing to set up shop at George’s Street Arcade – with no rent charged for the first three months and all other start-up costs covered.

Ms Krys, who has a background in project management, told Independent.ie she was “thrilled” when her business proposal for a nail bar was successful and said it was “a dream come true” to operate from the famous arcade.

“I loved coming to George’s Street Arcade when I last lived in Dublin and always thought it would be great to have something special for Ukraine in it,” she said. “The location is unbelievable and it’s such a big thing for me to have a stall here.

“Ukraine is well-known internationally for the high standard of its beauty therapies. I knew many professionals from the industry were now living in Ireland and I wanted to create a safe space for them to work in.”

Ms Krys had travelled to the United States with her lawyer boyfriend on February 20 – just four days before the Russian invasion of her country began.

“We were in America as my boyfriend was due to sit his bar exams there,” she said. “We had planned to travel for a while before returning to Ukraine, and had flights booked from New York to Kyiv for March 7.

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“When Russia attacked my country, we didn’t know whether to stay in the US or what to do next. But then I realised I wanted to come to Ireland, which I consider my second home country.

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Anna Krys, from Ukraine, at her nail bar U Beauty at George's Street Arcade in Dublin. Georges Street Arcade have provided Anna with a unit in the arcade rent-free. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anna Krys, from Ukraine, at her nail bar U Beauty at George's Street Arcade in Dublin. Georges Street Arcade have provided Anna with a unit in the arcade rent-free. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anna Krys, from Ukraine, at her nail bar U Beauty at George's Street Arcade in Dublin. Georges Street Arcade have provided Anna with a unit in the arcade rent-free. Photo: Frank McGrath

“We never imagined we would not be going back to Ukraine. We kept thinking it would be all over in a few days, so we didn’t even change our tickets. Then we got an email from the airline to say our flight to Kyiv was cancelled.”

After arriving in Ireland on March 10, Ms Krys tried to convince her family – including her mother, grandmother, sister and nephew – to join them in Dublin, but they refused to leave Odessa.

“My 83-year-old grandmother told me: ‘I have my home, my chickens and my garden here. I lived through the Second World War and I’m not afraid of this little man’.”

She added: “I’m in daily contact with my family and I check the news every single minute. Every day there are sirens so it’s hard to know if they are safe – it’s like a lottery.”

Ms Krys, who lives with her partner in Dublin city centre, praised the Irish Government’s response to Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis and believes people in this country are “the kindest in the world”.

“The Irish authorities organised all the documents that Ukrainian people require in order to live and work here – we got everything we needed when we arrived at the airport,” she said.

She said she will never forget the “extraordinary generosity” of George’s Street Arcade owner Gwen Layden.

“Gwen is like a little angel trying to give us all her kindness, energy and support,” she said. “I was broken when the war started, as nothing can prepare you for something like this, but I have been really helped by all the love and support I have received.”

Ms Krys’s new stall also received a free fit-out from a company called Restless Design and she was not charged for furniture.

“I will always remember the kindness shown to me here – my grandchildren will know about the story of Ireland,” she said.

The Laydens previously made headlines when they didn’t take rent from their tenants during lockdown and only looked for payments on a phased basis after Covid restrictions ended.

The gesture cost the family almost €500,000, which they funded from their own resources.

Gwen Layden, who has described herself as “an unusual landlord”, said she doesn’t make letting decisions based on money.

“The one thing everyone has in common here is that they are all doing what they love,” she said. “It’s like a happy United Nations.”

George’s Street Arcade, which opened as South City Market in 1881, is home to more than 40 independent boutique shops, food outlets and stalls.


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