An estimated 20 women and children fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine have found refuge in the Fethard Presentation Convent building over the past week, and more than 55 refugees are expected to arrive there in the coming weeks.
The first to arrive at the newly modified convent building last Wednesday, March 30, were a group of four women and two children, who are relatives of Oleg and Maryna Gavrylenko, a couple who have worked and lived locally for several years.
The group, which included nine-year-old Alina and four-year-old Damir, traveled from kyiv and southern Ukraine to Poland and then by air to Ireland. The community of Fethard will welcome more than 55 people fleeing the war in Ukraine in the building of the presentation convent of the city. Responding to the urgent need for accommodation, the convent building has undergone an accelerated alteration project to make it suitable for the use of families moving in this month.
The accommodation has been inspected and approved by the Irish Red Cross and will be managed by the Fethard & District Day Care Center Committee, who will continue to use part of the building for their daily community activities.
The renovated building was officially inaugurated last Wednesday after welcoming its first guests.
The renovation project has been aided by an incredible community response, with local businesses and contractors stepping up to provide free labor and materials, as well as local community members who have personally made donation of items.
Nearby Coolmore Stud, which employs a number of Ukrainian nationals, has also provided financial support for the project and helped with project management.
Welcoming the families, Joe Kenny, Chairman of the Fethard & Killusty Community Council, said: “This has been a true community effort and we are proud to be able to offer support and solidarity to those fleeing the terrible tragedy in Ukraine.
“This would not have been possible without the support of the Presentation Sisters and the Irish Red Cross.
“We also had the support of Senator Garret Ahearn and the Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to fast-track the bid.
“We are extremely grateful and look forward to a warm welcome to our Ukrainian guests.”
Maurice Maloney of Coolmore Stud said: “We have a number of Ukrainian staff, many of whom have family and friends back home who they are worried about. They are in our thoughts and prayers, as are all those affected by recent tragic events.
“The incredible work of the Fethard community has created a safe place for people who have had to flee war to return home.
“With local volunteers volunteering their time and local businesses contributing their expertise and materials, we are glad we were able to play a small part in achieving this goal.” Senator Garret Ahearn, who has supported the project at government level, said: “The hard work of the people of Fethard is evident here today as the community welcomes Ukrainians who have fled unthinkable circumstances.
“The community’s quick response to make the convent suitable for its purposes in such a short time is a testament to the community spirit and humanitarian instincts of everyone involved.”
Pictured below: Fethard Presentation Convent, which has been refurbished to house refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine