New Ukrainian hub to help refugees is inundated with offers of support

Pop-up hub in Dún Laoghaire hub offers Ukrainian refugees free clothes and other items

If there is a universal symbol for toddlers and wobblers, it is probably Peppa Pig. Four-year-old Magdalena Medenska made straight for a Peppa toy when she visited the Ukrainian pop-up hub in Dún Laoghaire Shopping Centre on Thursday.

Magdalena's Peppa Pig was left behind when her family fled Ternopil in western Ukraine after it was bombed by Russia early in the war. She, her mother Tatiana and brother Vadim Yarema (18) have been in Ireland for two weeks and are staying in a central Dublin hotel. Her sister (16) stayed in Ukraine to mind her grandparents.

Ms Medenska said the family are as happy as could be expected in the circumstances. She describes Irish people as “open-hearted” and warm.

The Ukrainian hub stemmed from an idea of three Russian friends. Oxena Crossen, who has been living in Ireland for two decades, said they could have sat at home cursing Russia’s invasion of her father’s home country, but they instead decided to do something about it.


She said some might assume that Russians share a “common guilt” about what is happening, but half of her relatives are Ukrainian.

“We are all heartbroken. It has left us burning inside,” she said. “It is extremely sad. It is like an aggression from the 20th century.”

The hub started out above a coffee shop in Sandycove, but space soon ran short and they have relocated to a larger space in Dún Laoghaire.

A local electrician worked free of charge to ensure it opened on time and Dunnes Stores provided hangers and rails. The shop is piled high with clothes, books, toys and toiletries, with everything free for Ukrainian refugees. Twice the amount seen on the shop floor is being held in storage.

"It's a great humanitarian and community project," Ms Crossen said. "Everybody has been happy to give us stuff. We have spent weeks and weeks sorting out the clothes."

The demand is great and donations are still being sought. Casual clothes such as hoodies and T-shirts are needed, she said, while demand for suits, beautiful dresses or high heels is low, for now anyway.

Ruslana Tymofeyeva left western Ukraine with her daughter when she started to hear air raid sirens every night. She spent two weeks in Croatia before arriving in Ireland on March 25th. They are staying with an Irish family and she said her 10-year-old has settled in well. "Children adapt easier."


Volunteer Svetlana Litmanova, a Ukrainian woman living in Ireland for 20 years, said the refugees are remarkably respectful.

“I have seen children taking an extra toy and being told, ‘You already have a toy. Other children need toys,’” she said.

Ms Litmanova is a psychologist and believes that many of those fleeing Ukraine have post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Imagine having to leave everything you have behind. You don’t know where you are going,” she said. “I would love to give these people all my heart . . . What Ukrainians need most is a hug and they need a little bit of hope and optimism.

“In the western world we are so accustomed to be able to get used to free expression and being safe.”

Claire McAfee, an Irish volunteer with the hub, brought her mini-Dachshund, Daisy, dressed in the blue and yellow of Ukraine to the shop.

“I keep saying that if the shoe was on the other foot, they would be doing the same for us,” she said. “They are normal people with normal jobs. A lot of them who arrive have absolutely nothing. Their homes have been blown to bits.”

The hub is looking for volunteers. Those who wish to help should visit

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times