A Waterford-based Ukrainian man helps his young family flee the ‘shootings and explosions’ of war

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A meat factory worker in Waterford has described how he and his family managed to escape the terror of the Russian invasion of Kiev over the weekend.

Andrii Kovskyi helped his wife Natalia and their children escape on Friday night, with no “roads” left for much of their journey. The family and their loved ones in Ukraine made the decision to bring their children to safety, away from the fighting in the war-torn country.

Speaking through a translator, Andrii, 40, and his wife Natalia Kovalska, 39, described hearing ‘gunshots and explosions’ around them as they escaped from Kyiv. They said it was a “horrible and scary” time in the Ukrainian capital as they were packing nothing but their passports to get out of the country.

Andrii, who works at Dawn Meats outside Waterford city, returned to Ukraine to help the family escape, and they began their terrifying journey last Friday night. Natalia and her children had been hiding for several days in the apartment where they lived.

“It’s the people hiding in the buildings as much as they can,” Andrii said.

A lady gave birth to her child because she could not get to the hospital. You just stay where you are in the basement.

Other adult family members agreed that their children would join the couple on the trip out of Kyiv, as those parents had to stay to fight and work in Kyiv hospitals.

Andrii and Natalia piled the five children – three of whom were the children of their relatives – into a car and escaped from the capital Kiev to Lviv. This is a journey of about seven hours in normal times, but at this stage of the Russian invasion of the war there are “no roads” left to facilitate the journey.

“As you can imagine, you try to get as many people out as possible. From Lviv to Poland, it was on a bus with mostly women and children,” he said.

From Lviv, the family was able to take a bus to Krakow, filled mostly with women and children. They managed to land in Ireland on Saturday.

However, due to the size of Andrii’s one-bed apartment in Waterford, all five children have been temporarily left with friends in Cork until the family can be reunited. Local politicians have been contacted to help the family.

They said that even if the other parents wanted to leave, they certainly couldn’t at this point. A bridge used to escape was destroyed shortly after the family made their crossing.

“There are currently no roads, everything is in a terrible state. It’s dangerous to be there, it’s dangerous to travel.

“Family left behind, they have no way out. It’s safer to stay put. Cars are not a safe place, let alone roads.”

Today, the family is concerned for their loved ones who remained behind and fears for their well-being. “We are tired, but we keep going,” Natalia said. “We are worried about our family.”

There are around 50 Ukrainians in Waterford and the town’s latest solitary protest, held on Sunday, saw more than 200 people take to the town’s mall in support of Ukraine. According to Micheál Martin, approximately 1,800 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland since the start of the war.

In light of the growing support via donations for Ukraine, a centralized location in Waterford for donations will open tomorrow in an industrial estate in the town of Kilcohan. It will run Monday to Sunday, 5pm to 7pm, for the foreseeable future, according to Waterford City and County Council.

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