From city life in Ukraine to “a rock” off the coast of Donegal – Árainn Mhór’s Ukrainian population have settled well into island life and their new community

Árainn Mhór’s population is concentrated on the sheltered eastern side of the island and is not as exposed or as isolated from the mainland as some of Ireland’s other offshore islands. Teenagers from the mainland even take the ferry to Árainn Mhór to attend secondary school.

For Ukrainians, they do not mind the weather so much. Vlad (who now runs Zumba classes on the island) arrived in a t-shirt during an August heatwave and was relieved when he found the winter not as cold as back home.

The only downside is the hour-long walk often in the dark from his house to the community centre. In fact, the Ukrainians are spread out in different houses on the island and have taken time to get to know each other.

The biggest change for Vlad was moving from a city to a rural part of Ireland. Oleg said: “It’s so safe and calm here. The people are good.”

Alex recalled: “When we first looked at the map of Ireland and found Arranmore, it was a rock. That was a shock.” He deeply appreciates the quality of education available on the island for his children aged 16 and four.

As an engineer, he has many ideas for community development – “every day” says his wife Yulia, who lost her job as a civil servant when her city was invaded. She likes the wild weather here, enjoys walking and she is now employed in the Day Care Centre on Árainn Mhór. Alex wants to join the RNLI as a volunteer.

“It is a very, very friendly and welcoming community. They stop us and have chats,” said Yulia.

“100%,” agreed Alex.

For more on Arranmore’s new Ukrainian community, read our story here about the first baby born on the island since the 1970s.

Since our meeting, Yulia’s mum Natalia had a mishap. The Arranmore community, having warmly welcomed the family, launched a fundraising campaign and asked Changing Ireland to share the link. It is a testament to the bonds formed between islanders and newcomers that they have raised over €4,500 in a short space of time.

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