WATCH: Emotional scenes at Dublin Airport as families say goodbye before heading back to Ukraine to join the fight
The heartbreaking video shows several men saying goodbye to their families before they depart for Ukraine where they will help to defend their country from Russian attacks.
The world has been watching on in horror as Russia continues to wage war against the people of Ukraine. We’ve been united by a universal sense of helplessness and even the small donations of money, supplies and clothing we’ve managed to pull together, seem meagre when considering the scale of the devastation.
It’s been a terrifying few days to put it lightly. We have the privilege of living thousands of kilometres away from the ongoing violence, but Ukraine has never been far from mind – particularly for Ukrainians living in Ireland, many of whom made the extremely difficult decision to leave their families and fly home to help defend their country.
Saying their goodbyes at Dublin Airport this past weekend, the group of men – husbands, fathers, friends, sons – set off for Krakow in Poland where they plan to travel by car to the Ukrainian border and join the civilian resistance against the Russian invasion.
RTÉ spoke to several of the men before they headed off, with 23-year-old Pavlo Serdiuk explaining that he was going because he felt a responsibility to his country. “It’s my duty, you know, to my country. It’s in war no, so I have to go there and do what I can.
“I’m not going to lie, I am scared to go there,” he admitted. “The closer you get there, the more scared you are, but it is what it is.”
Another man living in Dundalk with his family, known as Stanislov, described the situation as “heartbreaking”. “It is emotional, not just for today, it’s emotional for the last three days when I made the decision,” he continued. “There was plenty of tears in the house.”
A third, Vadym Binko, was joined by his wife and two young children at the airport. “I have lived in Ireland for over 20 years. I love Ireland. My kids are Irish and my wife is here too. But Ukraine for me is my house as well,” he commented. His wife, Maryna, is petrified for her husband’s safety, but she also understands “that it is the thing which we must do and we need to support him as family.”
Maksym Savych, who previously served in the Ukrainian army for six years, said that he felt it was “important to go home to help fight the Russians” and that he was going to protect his friends, family and country.
Roman Protsenko, another father of two, was visibly upset at having to leave his family, but the experience has only brought them closer together. “We are very united at this moment and we are very strong,” he commented. “They are on our land,” he pointed out when referring to the violence that has been rained down upon Ukraine.
When asked about her husband’s decision, Roman’s wife, Tetyana, said that though she didn’t want him to go, she also understood why it was necessary.
The group made the decision to return to Ukraine in response to an appeal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling for all those who can, to come back to defend the country. All of the men set off with donations of essential supplies from locals which included helmets, flak jackets, batteries, sleeping bags and money too.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have crossed over into Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia, in the past few days. According to UN aid agencies, the war could drive up to 5 million people to flee abroad, with up to 3 million heading to Poland alone. Turmoil continues to break out and men of fighting age (18-60) have been told to remain in Kyiv to defend the capital.
Last week Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced that visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens fleeing the country and coming into Ireland would be waived.