Flight of hope

The Cast Stone

PRECIOUS CARGO Candle of Grace is bringing Ukrainian children to Mayo today.

The Cast Stone
Michael Gallagher

It’s Friday morning in Castlebar. The rain is drifting towards the earth and the sky is grey. In Ukraine there is no rain this morning and the sun is shining. The difference is stark.
In Castlebar I’m sitting in my home, legs up, lap-top on my lap (it does what it says on the tin) and election results from Belfast pouring through the television. I think of my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother. They are front and centre in the election halls of Heaven as I write and the tears aren’t far from my eyes.
In Ukrainian villages around Chernobyl the children are already gathering. They have an inkling there’s the possibility of brighter days. They’ve heard whispers of a faraway place called Mayo. They’ve been told of green fields, clean air and people with love in their hearts, but they dare not dream.
Dreams are dangerous. Thoughts of better days are dangerous. Every second must be lived through, every second must be survived. If they live until Monday and sit in the buses as they snake towards the border they won’t dream of Mayo because it could all end in a split second. Emotion will only be released if the buses reach Poland. Then, it will be time to dream. Then, they will have a chance to live.
In Mayo as the morning passes, my house is getting ready for a big football match. We revel in the green above the red; in Ukraine they hold the flag of sky and sunflower close to their hearts. So far removed from one another – so similar in so many ways. Life is very precious.
In Ukraine, the children heard the bombs dropping again yesterday. The phone calls to Castlebar were solid, stoic, but a little anxious. They knew there was a possibility of better days in a land of green (and red) but they couldn’t let their hearts believe and as every minute passed and every bomb dropped the possibility of Mayo grew ever more distant.
The phone calls yesterday were rollercoasters – happy, sad, excited, anxious, waiting, wondering and wishing.
How can a little charity in Islandeady change the lives of so many? How can a little charity in Islandeady dream impossible dreams and make them come true? How can a little charity in Islandeady find the time, the energy, the courage, the bargaining skills, the power, the desire to make this phenomenal project possible? The answer is simple – Mayo!
Mayo people, Mayo generosity, Mayo kindness, Mayo courage, Mayo drive, Mayo resilience, Mayoness, Mayoness, Mayoness!
Candle of Grace was and is the brainchild of Lily Luzan – a woman who deserves national recognition and would be the most deserving Mayo Person of The Year in history. However, that force of nature is the first to admit she’s a tiny cog in a small wheel. Candle of Grace is a small organisation – a mix of Belarus, Castlebar, Latvia, Islandeady, Russia, Kilmeena, Lahardane and other wonderful places. However, it has the ingredients to achieve great things – attitude, desire and the ability to make dreams come true.
Nothing is out of reach, because the people of Mayo have rowed in behind Lily and her little army. For years the people of Mayo have donated what they could and Lily’s army sent ambulances, trucks, clothes, food, medicines and much more to those most in need. However, this week was even more spectacular.
A WhatsApp plea on Tuesday morning among Ballina Rugby friends was answered by a man who then worked night and day to encourage Ryanair to come on board and back the project generously. A message to a friend on Wednesday evening before football training yielded an immediate response and a desire from Mayo County Council to move mountains to save the children. A meeting with an inspirational Bostonian in Mulranny on Thursday morning developed the dream further as the bombs dropped near the children.
In Ukraine, the diesel has been sourced for the buses. The vehicles are ready to go. All they require now is the quick passage of time.
The rain is still falling here in Castlebar. The big football match is getting closer and the excitement is growing by the second. In Chernobyl the day is passing slowly. The children can’t dream yet, but the latest phone call tells them everything is ready. They just need to get to the airport. One last life-changing journey to take. One last hill to climb. One last weekend before Mayo.
The plane will lift them into the air at 8am on Tuesday morning, May 10. They’ll be in Mayo on Tuesday afternoon. They will make it safely. I pray they will. I know they will.