‘I feel so safe. I can work, I can meet people’: A Ukrainian woman’s short visit to Ireland turned into a year

Survey finds 41 per cent of those who fled to Ireland after Russian invasion plan to stay for a long time


In Anya Bazilo’s hometown of Kyiv, shops are shut, people are hiding, air sirens go off regularly and bombing is a constant threat. Living in Ireland and being able to escape that violence makes “every day feel like a present”, she says.

Ms Bazilo visited family living in Ireland a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What was supposed to be a short visit has turned into more than a year living in Ireland.

“They welcomed me here and offered to let me stay. When the full-scale invasion happened I was in deep, deep emotional stress and shock,” she said.

Ms Bazilo is one of almost 80,000 Ukrainians granted temporary protection in Ireland following Russia’s invasion of the country on February 24th, 2022. The 34-year-old said she misses her life back home and recently visited her family who have continued to live there.

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“It was very hard first to go there and then to come back. It was very emotionally stressful. When I was there, there were five or six missile air strikes per day, air sirens. There were no active bombings in Kyiv when I was there, but just last night Kyiv was bombed,” she said.

“It was very emotional to see my city half empty, half of the shops are closed, half of the people gone. I admire people who do not want to leave, who really try to make their life there as normal as possible. They just are in constant terror, constant threat of bomb attacks but life goes on.”

Ukrainian Action in Ireland, a not-for-profit organisation, on Tuesday published its second survey on the integration of Ukrainians in Ireland, which looked at health, education, accommodation and general wellbeing.

Conducting the survey through an online questionnaire, researchers interviewed a total of 7,938 Ukrainians, comprising 4,273 adults and 3,665 children, representing about 10 per cent of the Ukrainian population here.

Some 56 per cent of five- to 17-year-olds are in one school, while 43 per cent are attending two schools – one through their native language and another through English. The survey found that 80 per cent of children are happy, with happiness being higher among those who are only attending one school.

The main challenge for children in Ireland is language, according to the findings, with 57 per cent of respondents citing it as a difficulty.

For adults, housing is the biggest challenge, though respondents are overall highly satisfied with the accommodation provided. Some 8 per cent of respondents were renting at market price and some 10 per cent were living in housing provided by a host family.

One respondent in the survey said: “Everything is great compared to living in a war zone. But we stay with our hosts for more than a year now and we feel that we need to move on – and we have nowhere to go.”

At this point, 41 per cent plan to stay in Ireland for a long time, 25.5 per cent would like to return to Ukraine and a third of respondents (32 per cent) have not decided whether to stay in Ireland or to return to Ukraine.

Speaking at the launch of the survey, the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland, Larysa Gerasko, said the findings will help “to see the problems our compatriots face and how best we can help them”.

“Thank you to the Irish people, Irish Government and all organisations for your help, support and assistance of Ukrainians here,” she added.

Ms Bazilo said returning to Ireland after her trip to Ukraine made her realise just how great living here is. She said she integrated into the Irish and Ukrainian communities and became a founding member of Ukrainian Action in Ireland.

“I feel so safe. I can work, I can meet people, I can be out there disregarding the curfew and other things. This is the safety and security that we usually take for granted. Only when you lose this kind of normality of your life, you value it even more,” she added.

“Every day is a present. Every day I value people I’m with, the things that I do, and it just gave a totally new perspective to your life. I want to thank Ireland for giving this opportunity to me and so many thousands of others who actually have an opportunity to live in a normal and safe environment.”