KYIV Six months ago, Yaroslav was a young man who lived and studied music in Kyiv. He had no idea that he would change forever, that the Russian army would cross the border and that his country would be at war. He was three days from being drafted into Ukrainian Defense Forces. He celebrated his 18th birthday in a train station in Poland. 

Irish protestors oppose the war, O'Connell Street, Dublin

Yaroslav came to Ireland alongside his fellow citizens in April; he wrote about his journey;

My name is Yaroslav, I'm 18, and I'm from Ukraine. Before the war, I lived the ordinary student life, studying cyber security. I have musical education on piano and can play some other instruments, guitar especially. I was supposed to start work on the 14th of March. My studies and life were going really well. I never thought something could change everything in one moment. One day before the war, I walked around the park with my friends and talked about war probability, but no one believed that to be a possibility. 

We woke up on the 24th of February because of explosions at 5 AM. It was unbelievable, we thought it was a dream, and this feeling didn't leave us for the next two weeks. We left Kyiv on that day. We couldn't believe it. We thought it would last for 3-5 days, so we moved to the village near Kyiv. We heard some explosions and saw smoke and light after them. We thought about moving to West Ukraine for two days, but things were good, and we stayed for one more day. 

On the third day of the war, we heard the sound of military machines moving along the route, and in the evening, Russian troops came into our village. It was creepy. But at that time, we didn't know what it meant for us. 

Next week was like a movie, a horror movie. Three nights in a row, we slept in a basement because we were terrified of bombings, rockets and shells. We saw tanks, armoured personnel carriers and anti-aircraft units in the field near our houses. Three days later, we moved to our neighbour's house with a wood boiler because we didn't have gas, electricity, and water, and it was freezing in our house. There were about 14 people in one place, and after four days, the bombs became a normal occurrence, so we didn't move to the basement anymore. We were just praying that any shell wouldn't hit the house and that no Russian soldier would come. 

After a while, the Russians decided to let us out and made a "green corridor" for us. There were 15 cars with signs "Children" and white rags. We were really afraid because we had heard many stories about when Russians were shooting such columns, but we couldn't stay there anymore. When we were waiting for the time they had given us, we stopped before the Russians' checkpoint, and I saw them aiming at us. I knew they just wanted to make sure no one was a threat to them, but I also knew that they could start shooting at us at any moment. 

We saw many destroyed cars, buildings, plundered shops, and pits after explosions when we were leaving. We went to route, and when we were passing the checkpoints, we were crying because of happiness with all that horror left-back. At our neighbours' relatives' house, where we stayed for the next night, we saw checkpoints with soldiers, broken cars, destroyed military machines, etc. 

Now, when our army ousted Russians from the Kyiv region, and all horrors they were doing on our land were in public, I understand how blessed we were that we left that area because only God knows what the future had in store for us. 

We moved to Ternopil, West Ukraine, from where my parents sent me to Krakow to their friends, because there were three days until my 18th birthday, so I should have stayed if I didn't move. I had one week in Krakow when I heard my relatives were going to Ireland, so I made the journey with them. 

I was amazed at how open and friendly the Irish were when we came here. They helped us with everything and gave us everything we needed. After a few hours in the airport, they sent us to a beautiful place in Greystones called Coolnagreina. I've never been to a place like this before, but I am amazed by the nature of Ireland. I'm thankful to every Irish for their help and open hearts to Ukraine. You made us feel at home here, and Ukrainians have much to learn from you. Thanks to God, we are in such a beautiful place. I hope we will return home as soon as possible, rebuild our cities and say "Welcome to Ukraine!" to every Irish.

By clicking this audio clip you can listen to Yaroslav's RTE Radio performance of "The River flows in you" - originally composed by Yiruma (South Korean pianist)




Saturday the 30th "An evening of support & friendship through music" will see Yaroslav perform his music. For more information visit :

Tiglin Column; 22nd of April 2022