New to the Parish: ‘There was too much pain in my heart to stay in Wexford’

A businessman who fell on hard times in his native country moved to Wexford with his second wife, before a tragedy struck that changed the course of his life

Rimantas Mickevicius had dedicated 10 years of his life to his air-conditioning and ventilation company when the business fell apart in 2004. Soon after Lithuania joined the EU, the value of the firm's ventilation and sound-absorbent equipment dropped substantially in value. Having invested all of his finances into the company's factory, he was forced to sell the organisation.

"I decided I didn't want any more trouble in my mind and sold it," says Mickevicius, who is from the city of Kaunas in central Lithuania. "I started out with zero and finished with zero."

His relationship to his wife of 12 years deteriorated when he told her about a problem with his taxes. “During that difficult time, when I didn’t have money, my family also fell apart and I separated.”

As a Catholic, in this moment of crisis he turned to God. “I started crying out to God, saying ‘What am I doing wrong with my life?’ I put my life in God’s hands and said, ‘You will be my friend. You’ve known me since I was born. You’ve known me my whole life. You know my future.’ ”


He began attending Mass more often and before long he made a new friend. “I met this woman and suddenly it was like a miracle in my life. It’s interesting how you can meet a person and suddenly you feel so happy.

“You know how people have images in their mind of what would make them happy? They imagine the woman they will love, the colour of her eyes, what she’ll look like. Frida was all my fantasies and more. She was perfect.”

The couple successfully applied to have their previous marriages annulled. They subsequently married in Lithuania and began to plan their new life together.

The path to Wexford

Meanwhile, Mickevicius was contacted by a Lithuanian friend living in Ireland who was connected to the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship, a Christian business organisation with branches around the world.

The friend explained that a chapter of the fellowship in Co Wexford was looking for musicians to join the congregation and asked whether Mickevicius, who played guitar and sang, would be interested in moving to Ireland. He discussed the proposition with his wife, and in 2007 the couple moved to Wexford.

"I didn't even speak English; I just knew how to say 'hello' and 'goodbye'. That was a little scary. But we had a good family life, and I found a job in an air-conditioning company in Enniscorthy. "

He settled into his new Irish life with the support of the church, the local Lithuanian community and his new Irish friends. His wife gave birth to a son, Rafael, followed a year later by a daughter, Marija.

“We were a happy family and we had friends. But after two years my wife became very weak.”

Mickevicius encouraged his wife to see a doctor, but she refused. When her condition began to deteriorate rapidly he called an ambulance, which brought Frida to Wexford General Hospital. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with leukaemia.

"We started fighting the disease but she was so weak. She spent one year at home and another year in different hospitals – in St James's in Dublin and University Hospital Waterford. I'm very grateful to the teams in those hospitals. If she had been in Lithuania, she would have been in big trouble with that illness."

Despite two years of tests, treatment and blood transfusions, his wife held on to her sense of humour. “She would joke, saying ‘I don’t have any Lithuanian blood left in my body. All my blood is Irish now.’ ”

In 2012 Frida died. “It was too difficult to stay in Wexford, because I could see the same street, the same shop; there was too much pain in my heart. So I decided to move to Dublin to look for more job possibilities and for study.”

He realised he needed to focus on a project to take his mind off the depression he experienced after losing his wife and to stay optimistic for his children. He decided to follow his life’s dream of becoming a sound engineer.

“I ordered books from Lithuania about sound engineering and that part of the music business. I started reading books and manuals in English about different types of equipment. I did online courses with Coursera.

“I followed my dream and that’s what’s helped me. I felt very alone. My children would go to school. I stayed alone at home. So in that moment I started to study.”

He trusted that God was watching out for his family, he says. “God gave me the trust that with great hardships come great blessings. I trusted him and that was my strength.”

He applied to do a course in music production at Ballyfermot College of Further Education and recently heard his name is on the priority waiting list for September. "That was two months ago. I trust my dream will become real and I will get a place."

Visits to Lithuania

He gets great pleasure from his two young children and their zest for life. Like their mother, who was an artist, they love painting. Rafael plays piano and both attend dancing and drama classes.

“My children are growing up well. I explain to them that their mother is in a better place now, that she is in heaven and is praying for us to make us happy.”

The family visit Lithuania every summer, where Mickevicius has two grown-up sons from his previous relationship and where the children can spend time with their grandmother. Back in Ireland, he is grateful for the support his family has received in recent years.

"I think the social system in Ireland is very good because they helped me so much. The Irish Cancer Society gave me so much help and support, and St Vincent de Paul helped my family and still do today. But the most important of all is God. I really feel peace in my heart now."

  • We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past five years. To get involved, email @newtotheparish
Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast