A five-year-old Ukrainian girl sheltering in Ireland received an early birthday present when she was finally able to see her Ukrainian father again for the first time in six months – but the situation facing the country this winter is looking increasingly challenging. Sofiia Badrak, who will turn six tomorrow, had fled the war with her mother back in April. Her father, Stanislav, arrived unexpectedly at her school in Country Cork to surprise her yesterday – but he will be there for only one week before returning to the family’s embattled home country. The heartwarming moment comes as Ireland looks set to allow more Ukrainian refugees on top of the 64,000 they have accepted already, with their accommodation systems reportedly buckling under the weight.
Sofiia reportedly rushed into her fathers’ arms when he appeared at Brooklodge National School in Glanmire, County Cork during her lunchtime. Stanislav is a singer, pianist and composer with the National Academic Choir of Ukraine.
Meanwhile mum Yuliia, who is from Kyiv, is also a musician, and was employed by the National Orchestra of Ukraine prior to the war.
She said it was a very exciting moment for the five-year-old to see her dad after they were separated for so long.
She said: “He flew in to Cork Airport. Stan, my husband [since 2014], has been in Ukraine. In Ireland he will be one week only. And then he will go back to Ukraine. It is sad but it is our life.
“For Sofiia, it is a surprise. We only have Sofiia. She is six on Saturday. It [him coming] is her present. We are so happy.”
Yuliia added that her daughter likes school and is adjusting as well as she can be expected to to life in Ireland. She added that she is grateful for the support of the locals, and her fluency in English is improving every day.
School principal at Brooklodge NS, Joe Nolan, said that it was nice to have a “real feel-good” story in these troubling times.
He said: “We have eight Ukrainian children in the school. They are settling in as well as could be expected given all the circumstances.
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“They are very resilient. We have a great staff and community behind them.”
The tale comes shortly after the Irish government U-turned on plans to move 135 Ukrainian refugees from Killarney to Westport as their services struggle to maintain the influx of new people. The group had been living in a Killarney hotel for the past six months and were informed on Monday they would be bussed to Westport at noon on Wednesday.
One woman who was living in Killarney since April said she was given less than 48-hours’ notice that she would be moved to COunty Mayo. They were being moved to make way for nearly 200 male asylum seekers who have been bussed into Killarney.
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Alternative accommodation was secured for the refugees already in the area to allow them to remain in the area where they had settled and avoid even more disruption to their lives. Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said that the short notice given to the Ukrainian refugees was “not acceptable” and that it should not happen again.
She said: “I think that for somebody to get only 48 hours’ notice is not acceptable to be straight with you. There’s kids in school, I don’t know their individual circumstances, but Minister O’Gorman has said now that that’s it that that’s not going ahead and I welcome that fact.”
Ireland’s Department of Integration, headed by Roderic O’Gorman, said it had worked intensively overnight to provide alternative accommodation for the affected families. However, it added the wider situation regarding accommodation remains extremely challenging, and refused to discount the possibility of pausing new arrivals due to a countrywide shortage of available places to stay.
Ireland is now accommodating 55,000 people between those fleeing Ukraine and International Protection applicants, and is expecting to have even more arrive as winter approaches.