First Irish aid truck for refugees arrives in ‘overlooked’ Moldova

Donations from Galway for Ukrainians make it to Chisinau after a week on the road

The first truck carrying publicly donated aid from Ireland for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova arrived in the country's capital Chisinau on Friday after a week-long journey.

About €100,000 of goods, including food, medicine and clothing for women and children, were collected from public donations at the Galway-Ukrainian donation centre at Galway Racecourse.

It took the lorry five days to reach the Romanian-Moldovan border where it was delayed for a further two days due to paperwork issues before being allowed to proceed to Chisinau.

The transit of the aid on a 40ft container was organised by Laois recruitment company Crewit Resourcing, which hires workers for Irish businesses from Moldova and Ukraine.

The company worked closely with the Moldovan embassy in Dublin to match donations collected with the products required in Moldova, a country struggling to cope with the war on its doorstep and the number of Ukrainians flooding into the country.

About 400,000 refugees have crossed over Ukraine’s western border into Moldova fleeing Russia’s invasion with 100,000 staying in the country and the remainder transiting through.

The non-EU country, one of the poorest in Europe, has had the biggest influx of refugees of any country relative to the size of its own population; Moldova is a nation of about 2.6 million people.

The Moldovan authorities are preparing for a further surge in refugee arrivals – up to 100,000 a day at the country's southeastern border at Palanca – if the Russian invaders push further westward along the Black Sea coast and attempt to take Odesa, Ukraine's third largest city.

“Moldova has been slightly overlooked. It doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with this. It was the right thing for us to do,” said Gary O’Keeffe, managing director of Crewit.

Chisinau was already “overloaded” when it came to pressure on accommodation and the influx of so many refugees was “completely maxing everything out”, said Mr O’Keeffe.

The Irish firm set up a business in Moldova two years ago and has brought about 150 Moldovans to work in Ireland since then.

Crewit’s staff in Moldova left the country after the Russian invasion, fleeing with other Moldovans who feared that the country might be the next nation to be invaded by the Russians.

“Like everybody in the world at this stage we have been absolute abhorred at the suffering in Ukraine. When you think these people had normal, very European lives a month and a half ago. It just goes to show it could happen to anybody,” said Mr O’Keeffe.

Frank Fahey, the former Fianna Fáil minister from Galway whose son Brian is Crewit's managing director in Ireland, helped the company with the humanitarian effort.

“Moldova is a small country quite similar to Ireland. I think Ireland would have an empathy with Moldova and that was why I was keen to help out,” he said.

He praised the public for the donations and the work carried out by volunteers in Galway.

“It was amazing that this whole group of people got together off the cuff and put the stuff together and boxed it, and didn’t put anything in that was not of a high quality,” said Mr Fahey.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent