'Here, it is more quiet'

Christmas will be different for the Ukrainian residents at Maple Court in Castlepollard this year. Eilis Ryan spoke to some of them recently about their experiences since fleeing their war torn homeland earlier this year.

Halyna Buchya came to Ireland with her three sons Pavlo, 16, Volodymr, 10, and Andrii, 5. Her husband remains in Ukraine, and fortunately, he is still living in the family home and still working, and Halyna hopes they can travel back to see him in January.

"But there is no light there and sometimes no warmth and no water: every day for eight hours, there is no light."

Before Halyna and her husband decided it was safer if she and the three boys left Ukraine, Halyna says, she was always worried for their safety, and she had trouble sleeping.

"Here, it is more quiet," she says, but she misses her husband and her mother and father.

In Ukraine, Halyna was manager of a bookkeeper and manager of an online site. Here, she does not work as school finishing times would make obtaining a job difficult, but after Christmas, she hopes to begin searching in earnest.

As her family comes from western Ukraine, they tended to celebrate Christmas on December 25, so in that sense, some aspects of the Irish Christmas are traditional, but turkey is not a feature of the Ukrainian Christmas.

"When we celebrate, we have many dishes on the table; all the dishes are different," she says, adding that many of them take a really long time to prepare.

In Castlepollard, the caterer David Smith, who provides the food at Maple Court, has employed some of the Ukrainians as staff, and so there is always familiar fare on offer – and so, Halyna expects, Christmas should have some familiar foods.