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Another light in the village


HOME AWAY FROM HOME Ukrainian refugees, from left, Kyryl (11), Oksana (mother) and Sofia (10) with, Olga and Viacheslau (15), members of the two families who moved into a house renovated by the people of Keenagh on Saturday last. Pic: Corinne Beattie

Michael Gallagher

The community Keenagh in Crossmolina has pulled together to do up a vacant house and give it to Ukrainian refugees.
Efforts to revitalise the village have been ongoing for years, and they duly took another step forward on Saturday morning when two Ukrainian families moved into the refurbished home.
The beautifully situated family home, which had fallen into disrepair in recent years, will now be a haven for two mothers and three children who recently escaped the ravages of war around Chernobyl in Ukraine.
Brendan Lavelle of the Keenagh Community Development Council was on hand to welcome the area’s newest residents. He told The Mayo News it will be nice to see another light in the village.
“This is a great community to live in. However, like the rest of rural Ireland our village has changed a lot over the years. There were three shops here when I was a young lad, but not one here now. I know it’s the same all across the country these days, but we are determined to do all we can to keep Keenagh thriving. These families will be here for a little while and are already asking about buses to school and how they can get involved in things.”

‘This is truly amazing’
Watching from afar as Ukraine was engulfed in war, the community immediately wanted to help. A local man approached Lavelle and his volunteers and said the old family home was available for refugee families, but it needed work.
“This was a thriving family home at one time, with a great family living here but had nobody here for the past few years. It needed a fair bit of work, and the community and the RSS scheme stepped in to help.”
On Saturday morning, Lavelle and Peter Gilroy were busily putting the final touches to the house as volunteers from the Candle of Grace charity arrived with beds and other furniture. Lily Luzan, director of the charity, was on hand with the two refugee families, who were entranced by the scenery, the welcome and the hospitality.
“This is truly amazing,” one of the mothers, Oksana, told The Mayo News. “We have come from our Ukraine where our homes and way of life are destroyed, and to think that these great people have welcomed us into their village is very special.
“The children are so happy. They love it already. They are not used to such space and beauty, particularly recently,” she added.

Blueprint for other villages
Brendan Lavelle was equally enthusiastic about the new project.
“This type of project could happen in every rural community with a little funding, and it would revitalise villages. There are homes in every parish where owners might be open to such things. We’re very determined here to show people what a great community Keenagh is, and our newest residents are already loving it.”
Ms Luzan, said the Candle of Grace charity was delighted to work with the Keenagh community and added it will be a great boost for all involved.
“We’re really excited about this, but I’m not surprised. The community here in Keenagh are so good to work with. They are proud of their community and are so welcoming. These families have come from a village within 25km of Chernobyl, where the war has been terrible, and now there are fires adding to the disaster there.
“To come here to this beautiful place and beautiful community is such a joy for them. To see in their eyes the joy it brings is special.”