Around 5,500 Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed to Ireland so far, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed.
Earlier in the month, the Government predicted that as many as 20,000 might choose to flee to Ireland and, in an interview with the BBC, An Taoiseach said that people were “shocked” by what was going on in eastern Europe:
“Our primary impulse is to assist those who are fleeing war,” he said.
“The Irish people are very seized by the series of atrocities that are going on; what we’re witnessing on our screens every evening is really shocking to people.”
The UN estimates that 2.5 million people have fled the country since Russia’s invasion last month - although men aged between 18 and 60 have been banned from leaving.
Most remain in countries that border Ukraine - and that is where Ireland’s largest aid convoy recently arrived to deliver much needed supplies of food, medicine and other essential items.
“It’s an incredibly difficult situation,” Charlie Lamson, Head of Fundraising with the Irish Red Cross, told Newstalk.
“People there are without food, without water.
“They’re looking for shelter, medical assistance and the Red Cross has just been doing everything we can to provide that first line medical support to them and get them into the shelter and into a situation where it is bearable for them to keep going on.”
Over 6,000 people in Ireland have contacted the Red Cross offering a room or a home for Ukrainians to stay in.
One refugee, Anastasia Kyshmar, told Newstalk that she was extremely “grateful” for everything Ireland has done for Ukraine but that she was wracked by survivor's guilt thinking about those she had left behind:
“To be honest, it’s so hard,” Ms Kyshmar told The Hard Shoulder.
“I still have a lot of my family and a lot of my friends there [in Ukraine] and a lot of them are protecting our country right now.
“A lot of them are dying and I love them.
“It breaks my heart to see it and… whenever I see the news right now it really makes me emotional. It makes me cry. I just wish I could help myself.
“Like I’m so grateful that Ireland has taken us and I’m so grateful that we can stay in a safe place but then I just feel like I’m being left out and I feel ashamed that I am alive for some reason - if it makes any sense.”
Main image: Ukrainian refugees crossing the Polish border in Medyka on March 1st 2022. Picture by: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News2.