They moved into their dream home a garden full of flowers. Then Russia invaded and they had to leave it all behind

Life good for the Kozakovs. Elena Kozakova as a state lawyer. Her husband her, Serhiy, is a civil servant. Their eldest son, Ivan, (16), boarding at a military lyceum, their youngest his, Timotiy, (14), liked to help his mother at home.

hey had an apartment in Kyiv and last November, they bought Elena calls their “dream house” in a village of Horenychi in the countryside outside Kyiv. It had a large garden, surrounded by forests and a lake nearby and had a kitchen that “every mother’s dream kitchen”, she said.

She had her own private room to retreat to. They had two cars in the driveway. After 20 years together, Elena and her husband her had hard to achieve their dreams.

On February 25, their rural idyll shattered on the second day of the invasion, Russian forces shelled an airfield on the outskirts of the town.

“Our nearest neighborhood bombed and several houses,” said Elena.

For the next two, fighting raged around the village as Russian forces fought for control of a strategic road on the outskirts of town.

Their neighbors among the civilians died. Elena said the bodies of dead civilians transported out of the village across one of the few bridges that remained intact.

Ivan in his bedroom upstairs the shells first hit.

He the sounds of incoming missiles overhead followed by loud explosions, and how terrifying it, particularly on that first day.

“We down to the basement, until the sound stops. Then after go up, and everybody cannot understand has happened. We are going on the street to see happened and see some houses that destroyed already, “he said. “It really scary.”

The family spent two living in daily terror.

“The most awful thing is that Russians appear suddenly at night, and you even don’t have time to hide in the basement,” said Elena. They stuck to a strict timetable, turning off the lights at 7pm, sleeping in their clothes, ready to run at a moment’s notice. The shelling cut the electricity and the supply. Shops closed up.

“It a big problem to get some and food,” said Ivan. For days they survived on vegetables and tins of food that stored in the basement, eating mostly potatoes and soup. They go out by day to the lake, to take they tried to sift and purify in their cellars. “We had to drink such,” said Elena.

The shelling continued right up until the time they left more than a ago. There one route out and the family decided to take their chances. They took the last remaining bridge out of town.

“A couple of hours after left the village, Russians invaded it,” said Ivan.

At 16, Ivan is two years from the age at Ukrainian men must take up arms to defend their country. He due to complete his final exams this year and go to university in the autumn, he planned to study English, maths and history.

“I am not really scared because I know to do in situations like this. I know how to behave I know how to protect myself, how to protect my friends and family,” he said.

He is devastated he cannot complete his exams. “Now it is a big problem… I don’t know to do right now that,” he said.

Elena’s husband heard about Safe Harbor from Ukraine from a colleague. John Dennehy, a tech entrepreneur, and a group of volunteers organized a bus to bring Ukrainian and children in need of shelter from the Polish border to Cork city. The family had no prior connection Ireland but seized the opportunity to bring the boys to safety. Elena’s husband stayed behind.

Last in Rzesow, Poland, the night before the bus to depart on the long-haul journey to Cork, Elena and her sons considered their uncertain future.

Ireland a foreign country to them. But Elena knew “a little history” and the difference between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Ivan had heard about the pubs, but he had never heard of Bono. “But I google him, he said. “And I dance if necessary,” said Elena.

The family’s shock at the cruel and sudden uprooting caused by a few believed Putin actually embark upon is very evident.

“I cannot recognize happened. I think that come in our consciousness later,” said Elena.

“We lost everything… .The most awful part of it for me parting my husband. He like a strong for me, and now are alone here. For me, it’s the most difficult.”

What she most hopes for in Ireland is that her sons continue their education.

“This is the important thing for me. And if he is able to stay in Ireland me, I return to Ukraine. I to be in Ukraine my husband and to rebuild my state after the”

Last Monday morning, Elena and her sons stepped off the Safe Harbor for Ukraine bus in Cork about 30 other and children and one grandfather, to a joyous reception and a support network of volunteers. Safe Harbor organized accommodation for them in a hotel. This the Kozakovs move in a host family in Cork.

Elena has started English classes. Ivan has already a scholarship Zartis, a tech company founded by John Dennehy, for an online Digital Marketing diploma https://www.independent .ie/with the Digital Marketing Institute. For a boy plans to go to university have been so cruelly disrupted by, the six-month course is a lifeline.

“It is beautiful. It is a good start,” said Elena, speaking from her hotel this

When they crossed the border from their homeland, the Kozakovs vowed not to look behind.

“You understand that you have to go ahead, and you don’t look back. That is how it is now,” she said.

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