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Irishman details emotional journey across Ukraine border with his family


By Sarah Finnan
04th Mar 2022

Katie Godowski via Pexels

Irishman details emotional journey across Ukraine border with his family

Louth man Brendan Murphy and his wife, daughter, granddaughter and mother-in-law are just one of millions of other families to have crossed over the border out of Ukraine in recent days.

Brendan Murphy and his family have had quite a terrifying few days, to put it lightly. Forced to leave their home in Kyiv in light of recent violent events, Brendan, his wife, Marina, their 18-year-old daughter, three-year-old granddaughter and Brendan’s mother-in-law, travelled across Ukraine to neighbouring Poland. 

A Kyiv resident since before lockdown in March 2020, Brendan made the decision to leave the capital city last Thursday after news broke that Russian troops had made their way into Ukraine. Quickly gathering a few belongings and packing his family into their car, the fivesome spent the first night in a friend’s house before starting the dangerous journey to the country’s western border. 

Their journey was anything but smooth, however, and it took several long days of driving for the family to even cover any distance at all. Frequently sent down small backroads to avoid Russian attacks on civilians, Brendan told RTÉ that it was very slow-moving and they were lucky to cover 10km in the space of four hours. “As we made our way, we went through some areas that were attack zones and we were made wait as the Ukrainian army fought and we were sent on many different small roads, sometimes four hours for 10km, 14 solid hours driving and hardly a distance travelled.”

Finally crossing over into Poland just yesterday (Thursday), Mr Murphy said that he felt conflicting emotions about it all. “Divided emotions,” he said in an interview when asked what it’s like to be in a safe country once more. “One of them means I want to go back because what’s happening is appalling and the other is I want to be home.”

Previously living right in the heart of where the Russian attacks have been taking place, Brendan said that he saw “some pretty horrific scenes” before upping his family and leaving. “I’ve got photographs from where we were staying. So, people we know, friends, the park and the houses that we knew well, they’re destroyed now.

“A baby was killed this morning. There are tanks shooting into the private housing and there’s one road that’s just piled high with destroyed Russian tanks and trucks,” he continued. 

Later noting that he doesn’t think it’s possible to process something like that, Brendan said that the past week has been particularly difficult for his mother-in-law, Galena, who had been in hospital recently and is “very confused and upset” by what’s going on. 

Still trying to figure out what their next step is, Brendan said that the family will probably make their way to Warsaw first where they will “stop and regroup” before moving on by land in the coming days. “My whole focus was to get to [the border] and now I have this completely different mental mindset which is saying ‘Well, how am I going to get home? I have a car with people. What’s the best way to do that?’”

Then extending a warm thanks to everyone at home for the support so far, Brendan told RTÉ that “it’s been very warm and encouraging from across the world and in as much as it’s truly awful, you know the humanity and the warmth of people have been incredible”. “I really, really appreciate everybody at home very strongly,” he finished.