The Hrinberh family, from left, Sofia, Andrii, Davide, Timothy, Yuliia and Katia.

'Mullingar a good place to raise children'

The Hrinberh family have celebrated a number of significant milestones since they arrived in Mullingar last March.

In August, mother Yuliia gave birth to Katia, her and husband Andrii’s fourth child, the same month that their eldest child Sofia (5) started school at St Colman’s NS.

The couple left their home city Chernivtsi, which is in the Western part of Ukraine, week’s after the Russian army invaded the country.

With Yuliia pregnant and the safety and wellbeing of their three other small children to consider, Yuliia and Andrii decided that the best of course of action for the family was to join the millions who sought refuge abroad in the early days of the war. After spending 10 days at a refugee camp in Posnan, Poland, the family travelled to Ireland, and settled in Mullingar.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner through an interpreter, Andrii said that they chose to make a new life for themselves in Ireland because of the positive reports they had received about the country and its people.

“We were told that the people are friendly and very helpful,” he said.

Fast approaching the first anniversary of their arrival in the country, they say that “step, by step, day by day” they are adapting to life in a country they never envisaged that they would call home.

Yuliia experienced complications in the latter months of her pregnancy, but thanks to the expertise of staff in the maternity unit at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar, who she says were “excellent”, little Katia’s arrival on August 31 was relatively stress free.

The Hrinberhs are also grateful for the support they have received from the school community at St Colman’s, where Sofia is settling in well.

Andriuu says that when he collects Sofia at the end of school each afternoon, “she is talking to her friends in Ukrainian, while they speak English and they all seem to understand each other”.

“St Colman’s have been amazing, she loves it there,” he said.

An electrician by trade, but someone who can turn his hands to most things on a building site, Andrii is eager to help fill the labour shortages in the Irish construction sector. At the minute, he is prevented from doing so due to his far from perfect English, which he is studying hard to rectify.

It’s not easy to learn a new language at 46, but he is determined to do so, he says, and attends classes every week.

“I can understand questions, but when I try to answer it I start to panic and it’s difficult,” he said.

The Hrinberhs still have family living in Ukraine, who are they are in regular contact with. Unsure whether they will return to Ukraine when the war with Russia ends, whenever that will be, for now Andrii and Yuliia are busy focusing on their two daughters and two-year-old twin boys, Davide and Timothy.

They are happy in Mullingar and are grateful for the generosity extended to them and the rest of the Ukrainian refugee community by the people of Ireland.

Making a life for themselves in the heart of the Irish midlands was not something that the planned, but they are determined to make the most of it. “Mullingar is perfect and the people are very good. It is a very nice place to raise children.”