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Chernobyl children arrive safely in Mayo


ON SAFE GROUND  Children from Chernobyl arriving at Dublin Airport last week en route to Mayo. Pic: Karen Cox

Efforts now being made to house the refugees in local communities

Michael Gallagher

Ninety children have arrived in Mayo from Chernobyl after being rescued from the war zone in Ukraine last week. They flew into Dublin Airport on Tuesday after escaping the conflict in Ukraine thanks to the support of the Castlebar-based Candle of Grace charity.
The refugee children had been impacted by the war and the stark rise in radiation levels since hostilities began almost three months ago. Shelling and military activity in the area had seen radiation levels rise dramatically, which was confirmed last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The children are now in Mayo awaiting the appointment of host families.
On Tuesday last, the Candle of Grace charity flew 90 Ukrainian children to Dublin from Poland on a flight subsidised by Ryanair. While a small number of parents also made the journey, 59 were accompanied by legal guardians appointed by the Ukrainian state.
When the party landed at Dublin Airport on Tuesday morning, the group moved to the registration centre where they were assessed by Tusla, the state’s child and family agency.
In a statement issued to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday), Tusla said they became aware of the arrival of an organisation at Dublin Airport on Tuesday afternoon, with a number of children/young people travelling without their parents.
“As is our policy, all children/young people travelling without a parent/close relative, were screened by the Tusla team at Dublin Airport. All children/young people have travelled to Mayo and the Tusla team in the area are following up as appropriate. Any queries relating to the placement plans for the young people should be directed to the charity,” said the Tusla statement.
Mayo County Council were contacted yesterday (Monday) but declined to comment at this stage. A small number of officials had been aware of the project before it took place and arranged accommodation for the children and their guardians.
The latest arrivals are currently staying in three accommodation centres in Castlebar, Westport and Newport. A meeting took place at Candle of Grace headquarters in Islandeady last night (Monday) to brief potential host families on the situation and it is hoped to have everyone living in the community within two weeks.

“We have received great co-operation from the local community and so many people want to help, which is great,” said Lily Luzan of the Candle of Grace charity. “We’re working in tandem with Tusla and the various services to care for the children and make sure they get to host families in order to help them settle in and continue their rehabilitation.
“The children are already doing so well. I visit them twice daily and our friend Cllr Donna Sheridan also came along to welcome the children and their chaperones, which was wonderful. This is a happy story and will have a wonderful ending.
“The children all come from the area of Ukraine close to Chernobyl, which was the epicentre of a nuclear disaster 36 years ago. They will receive crucial rehabilitation in Mayo with Professor Yury Bandazhevsky on hand to assist,” Ms Luzan added.