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Mayo rallies behind Ukraine

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Supply drop offs for Ukrainians spring up around the county

Oisín McGovern

MAYO communities have rallied to help the people of Ukraine, where a humanitarian crisis is currently unfolding. Groups all over the county are organising drop-offs of essential items to send to the war-stricken nation, which was invaded by Russian forces last week.
Speaking exclusively to The Mayo News yesterday, the founder of a charity that assists children from Chernobyl made an impassioned plea to Mayo people to provide essential goods to refugees in the region.
Lily Luzhan, who is originally form the Chernobyl region but has been living in Ireland for a number of years, said there has been a ‘fantastic’ response to an appeal issued by the Islandeady-based charity Candle of Grace.
The organisation is requesting the public to drop off water, blankets, tents, sleeping bags, mats, baby formula, medicine, baby wipes, canned food, tea and warm clothes to the Euro Stretcher shop in Westport from 10am-6pm on Wednesday.
Goods can also be dropped at its headquarters in Leitir in Islandeady (Eircode: F23RY60) this evening (Tuesday) or tomorrow evening. They will then be transported to Poland where they will be administered by a Red Cross volunteer.

Nightmare
MS Luzhan said the Chernobyl area – where many of the children supported by Candle of Grace are based – is ‘completely occupied’ by Russian forces.
Since its establishment in 2016, the charity has brought children from Chernobyl to visit Ireland. Because of heavy fighting in the region and Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure, Candle of Grace has unable to evacuate the children to safety from the area.
“It’s just a nightmare. It’s a war that nobody wanted,” she said.
“I was in Ukraine many times, and they were very hospitable, smiling, happy people. I’ve never seen that much food on the table. Even though they had no money they would lay a table for you.”
Ms Luzhan said that she has struggled to sleep since Russia started the full-scale invasion last Thursday. She has also received many distressed calls from friends and relatives in the country.
However, she said the situation for refugees on the border region has begun to stabilise with the arrival of hot food and other supplies.

Tears
MS Luzhan thanked the people of Islandeady and Mayo for the support and solidarity they have shown to the Russian people.
“Since [the Cherynobl nuclear disaster] we really knew how kind Irish people are. They really became our brothers and sisters in the Chernobyl area. Now, when the whole of Ukraine is suffering, the help is deeply appreciated,” she said. “The response is just bringing tears to my eyes.”
This evening (Tuesday), a drop-off will take place at Achill GAA club from 7pm for a delivery of supplies to Ukrainian refugees on the Poland-Ukraine border.
Lahardane Community Centre will also be open from Monday to Thursday from 7.30pm to 9.30pm as a drop off centre for essential items. Transport to Poland has already been arranged.
Heather Kelly, who is facilitating a drop-off at her home in Newtown, Clogher, told The Mayo News yesterday that the response has been ‘absolutely overwhelming’.
Public representative Cllr John O’Malley said at a special meeting of Mayo County Council that the war in Ukraine was ‘going to have an effect on all of us’.
“Our prayers, hopes and thoughts are with the people of Ukraine,” Mayo County Council Cathaoirleach Michael Smyth stated.
“We’re all going to have to pay a price for this war, and the knock-on effect of it. But like the people of the Ukraine, who were down in trenches today, if we have to take the pain, so be it.”
Full details of the drop-off organised by Candle of Grace can be found on their Facebook page. You can donate to the charity at their website www.candleofgrace.ie.