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Dublin GP ‘blown away’ by strength and determination of Ukrainians

Dr Aideen Gough, who has hosted refugees in her own home, says new host families are needed to give existing hosts a break

Dr Aideen Gough has been co-running a clinic for refugees, including Ukrainians, in Castleknock, Dublin for the past year. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A Dublin GP who co-hosts a weekly clinic for refugees says she has been “blown away” by their determination to eventually return to help “fix” their country.

“I’ve seen a huge amount of Ukrainians suffering acute stress and post traumatic syndrome but I’ve been blown away at their strength and determination to carry on,” said Dr Aideen Gough.

The doctor, who has also had three Ukrainian families staying in her own home so far, said those who came here never believed they would have to leave their homes and watch their country being destroyed for so long.

“I do know many will not return to Ukraine as they are building new lives for themselves and their families here... they want to work to provide for themselves and to return the generosity of the Irish people. And I have no doubt that Ireland will be far better off in having them here long into the future.


“But for many others who want to return, they tell me that they will carry on and get on with things and then be ready to go back and fix their country and rebuild it when they can. I had a 56-year-old woman with me last week who said she wanted to go back soon to help dig out the landmines. She said she would prefer to put herself in danger rather than risk the life of a teenage boy who has yet to experience life.

“That is the incredible resilience of those Ukrainians we see each day,” she said.

Dr Gough has been co-running a clinic for refugees, including Ukrainians, alongside Dr Fiona Donnelly in Castleknock, Dublin for the past year.

“In the initial stages, everything was temporary and it was about checking blood pressure and making sure they had a new prescription for their existing medication,” she said.

Dr Gough says every Ukrainian she has met has been making an effort to learn English. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

“Now it’s about managing long-term illnesses and it was a challenge as Ukrainians don’t seem to manage their chronic conditions like we do here. In my experience, they take diabetes or blood pressure medicine only when they feel they need it so we have to educate them that it is important to take the medication on a daily or regular basis.

“The way they have responded to this is a success story in some ways. They wouldn’t go to a doctor in Ukraine for a check-up. They would only go if something was wrong. We have a great proactive, preventative primary healthcare system here and it’s been a pleasure to see how women have welcomed cervical and breast checks that they otherwise would not have even dreamed of seeking in Ukraine.

“Now they come into us and show us their blood sugar levels with almost pride. It’s like they now have a little bit of control in a situation where they otherwise have no other control over,” she added.

Dr Gough has been taking Ukrainian classes to help bridge the language barrier and has been impressed that every Ukrainian she has met has also been making an effort to learn English. “That’s not something I’ve come across before with any other migrant group. It’s, I’m sure, partly down to volunteers across the country who are holding free English classes.”

The GP has also helped to house hundreds of refugees with host families in the past year alongside her sister Angie who founded Helping Irish Hosts on realising Irish families accommodating refugees would also need support.

The group, which is now partnered with the Irish Red Cross, has placed 1,300 Ukrainians in 520 homes across the country and is urgently seeking new host families.

“We are now looking for new hosts to give the existing hosts a break and their homes back, even for a few months.

“It’s been a remarkable privilege for me to have been able to connect with so many Ukrainians and I’ve had three families in my home so far which has just been the most amazing experience for me,” she said.

Helping Irish Hosts can be contacted at