A Ukrainian woman is settling into life in Dublin after being rescued from war in her home country by friends at an Irish church where she volunteered three years ago.
Oleksandra Hromova, 23, was in her home city of Dnipro when Russia launched its invasion in February and was jolted in her sleep by explosions.
Two officers from The Salvation Army church and charity stepped in to help Miss Hromova and her mother Yulia, 45, after learning of her ordeal.
The former management and economics student had arrived in Ireland in 2019 during a gap year to volunteer with The Salvation Army, one of the largest providers of homelessness services in the capital.
On the very first day of the war in February, she was awoken by four explosions that shook the windows.
“I was so scared. I was just sitting in the corridor of my apartment, the sirens were going off and I decided I needed to leave,” Miss Hromova said.
The international airport in Dnipro, a city considered a significant industrial, transport, education and social centre, was destroyed by Russian forces.
Miss Hromova and her mother were forced to flee their home, which was near the airport.
They endured a 30-hour train and bus trek towards the border with Poland before reaching safety.
Ms Hromova said she “couldn’t cope staying in Ukraine” and has been living in Dublin with her mother since March.
She is volunteering at the charity again, as well as working as a barista at its Hub Café on King’s Inns Street.
Without the help of two charity officers, Miss Hromova said she and her mother would not have been able to leave Ukraine.
While the invasion enters its sixth month, she said she looks forward to the day she can return home.
“I love Dublin but I don’t want to stay here for 10 years,” she said. “I really want to go home before the new year, but now, I’m not sure.
“I’m still afraid that when I go back, I will not feel like I’m in a safe place.”
Captains Tim and Charlotte Lennox said they were concerned for Miss Hromova, and a second student Alisa, 22, who also worked in the church’s family hubs, when the invasion was launched on February 24.
Alisa remained in Ukraine.
“We kept in touch the whole time,” Mr Lennox said.
“The first thing we did was to phone them both to find out what was going on. We said quite early on, ‘if you need to get out, just know there is a place for you to come to’.
“They are like our family, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind for days. I was worried sick.
“It took them 36 hours to get into Poland, so we just went ahead and booked a flight for them. We managed to get it all sorted in a 72-hour period.
“Bringing Oleksandra here was not part of our homeless accommodation or refugee projects, it was simply about helping out a fellow church member at the most difficult point in her life.”