Health and Fitness

An opportunity encounter over pizza in Sri Lanka led us to search out asylum in Dublin

On February twenty fourth, 2022, at about 5am, Kyiv time, I went for my first ever hike. Together with my spouse Anna, we climbed Little Adam’s Peak in Ella – a excessive mountainous small city in Sri Lanka. We flew to this sunny island on January thirtieth to spend the following two months away from the chilly.

During February, we modified places on the island 4 occasions – we practised yoga, sunbathed and swam in Tangalle, ran alongside the huge seaside with calm waves in Mirissa, and surfed in Weligama.

We had been properly ready to climb, and as soon as on the high, the majestic landscapes of Sri Lanka’s coronary heart opened in entrance of us: the picturesque peak of Ella Rock, the sacred Ravana Falls and the broad valleys across the city. Breathing the pure cypress air, I felt peace and bliss.

Eugene Kolychev and Anna Kolycheva on Little Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka.
Eugene Kolychev and Anna Kolycheva on Little Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka.

Coming down from the summit in a state of deep calmness, the cellphone was ringing after we reached our home. My mom had referred to as me.

“Good morning, mom. How are you?”

“Son, the war has begun. Russia has attacked us. They are firing rockets. Please don’t worry. We will try to survive.”

Mom talked in a trembling voice.

We had our wedding ceremony simply seven months earlier than the struggle began – the candy reminiscence of celebration with all our shut family and associates warms our hearts. We wished to have youngsters and made plans for the long run. I loved a quickly growing profession managing the Ukrainian ice hockey league, whereas Anna bought her worldwide yoga certificates and virtually completed her first venture – a yoga diary. We lived an exquisite peaceable life and did all the things for a greater future.


Nobody believed that the struggle may begin. Everyone hoped that this nightmare wouldn’t have an effect on us. But already, on February twenty sixth, Russian troops launched strikes from a BM-21 “Grad” on civil homes in Chernihiv, 74km from the Russian border. My 57-year-old father, Yuri, an engineer in a building firm, couldn’t be a part of the Territorial Defence attributable to well being causes. At the identical time, he was too younger to cross the border legally. So he helped different males to arrange anti-tank barricades and inspected basements to see if they may turn out to be the bomb shelters.

At the identical time, my 52-year-old mom Lyudmila and 30-year-old sister Olga, who’re social staff, cooked meals for the armed forces of Ukraine of their free time in one of many colleges in Chernihiv. One day, they returned residence and only a few hours later, this college was destroyed by a Russian missile. Many folks died.

For many weeks, Chernihiv remained the human protect for the capital of Ukraine – Kyiv, an important goal within the early phases of the Russian invasion. Russian troops bombed Chernihiv day and night time. As a outcome, 70 per cent of town’s communications had been ruined. There was no electrical energy, gasoline, water, heating or connection. I couldn’t contact my dad and mom, and once they had the chance to catch the sign, they despatched images of how they cooked the uncommon leftover meals on a hearth on the street. All this time, my dad and mom tried to go to work and share meals with these in want.

Eugene Kolychev’s mother Lyudmila and sister Olga helped prepare food for the Ukrainian armed forces at a school in Chernihiv. One day, shortly after they went home, the school was destroyed by a Russian missile, killing many people.
Eugene Kolychev’s mom Lyudmila and sister Olga helped put together meals for the Ukrainian armed forces at a faculty in Chernihiv. One day, shortly after they went residence, the varsity was destroyed by a Russian missile, killing many individuals.

Every night time, the Russian military dropped large 500kg bombs on residential areas of town. My grandmother, 74-year-old Galina, partially misplaced her reminiscence attributable to shell shock from the bombing. When I spoke to her on Messenger, she couldn’t keep in mind the place I used to be, however she was apprehensive about whether or not my spouse and I had been protected.

At that second, the world appeared to freeze for me.

It simply stopped.

My household was underneath hearth, unable to prepare dinner meals, maintain heat or discover refuge in a bomb shelter, which was not giant sufficient for everybody within the metropolis

All the sounds in my head reverberated like trembling crystals. My household was underneath hearth, unable to prepare dinner meals, maintain heat or discover refuge in a bomb shelter, which was not giant sufficient for everybody within the metropolis. During this time, I’ve handled panic assaults by doing increasingly more climbing with my spouse: climbing Ella Rock, climbing Rawana Fall, conquering Small Rawana Fall, twice Nine Arch Bridge and as soon as once more Little Adam’s Peak. Regular actions, ups and downs, and altering landscapes helped me deal with stress.

A photo sent by Eugene Kolychev’s parents showing how they had to prepare their food over a fire in the street because relentless Russian bombing had left their city of Chernihiv without gas, water or heating.
A photograph despatched by Eugene Kolychev’s dad and mom exhibiting how they needed to put together their meals over a hearth on the street as a result of relentless Russian bombing had left their metropolis of Chernihiv with out gasoline, water or heating.

Finally, three weeks after the beginning of the struggle, my dad and mom managed to flee from town, and after 26 hours on the street, they had been in relative security – within the Ivano-Frankivsk area. I felt nice reduction. At the identical time, I began to sleep usually once more, and have fewer panic assaults.

Too harmful

After spending two weeks within the mountainous place of Ella, we returned to the coast within the suburbs of town of Galle. Sri Lanka didn’t present asylum for Ukrainians. We wanted to maneuver and maintain our future. We didn’t have a plan. We solely knew it was too harmful to return to Ukraine.

As quickly as she discovered we had been from Ukraine, she supplied for us to return to Ireland and dwell in her home… Anna and I had tears in our eyes

One day we had been sitting within the park in Galle, and my spouse leaned her head on my shoulder in full despair on the uncertainty of our future. We puzzled if it will be even a little bit bit snug to remain someplace in a gymnasium transformed into an asylum for displaced folks. Uncertainty tormented from the within out. Anna requested me what we must always do subsequent. I didn’t have a solution to this query. I do know it’s exhausting to imagine, however simply an hour later, we met the lady with the most important coronary heart I’ve ever seen – Zoë Quinn from Ireland.

Anna Kolycheva, Zoë Quinn and Eugene Kolychev. They met in Sri Lanka and Zoë invited them to come to Ireland and stay at her house. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Anna Kolycheva, Zoë Quinn and Eugene Kolychev. They met in Sri Lanka and Zoë invited them to return to Ireland and keep at her home. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

We met Zoë within the firm of her companion, Mark, in one of many small eating places in Galle, the place we went to eat pizza. Due to the worldwide rise in gasoline costs, there was an vitality disaster in Sri Lanka. The unpredictable day by day energy minimize occurred when the 4 of us had been in a small room of the pizzeria. It was boiling with out the air conditioners. I joked about hoping Zoë and Mark’s pizza wasn’t too spicy. We made small discuss earlier than Zoë requested us the place we had been from. As quickly as she discovered we had been from Ukraine, she supplied for us to return to Ireland and dwell in her home. Just a couple of minutes after we met. Anna and I had tears in our eyes. Zoë even requested if we had family who wanted safety.

At that second, Anna’s older sister, Nina, with two youngsters: five-year-old daughter Arina and seven-year-old son Lev, had been additionally in search of lodging. They left the suburbs of Kyiv on February twenty fourth for the Transcarpathian area as quickly because the shelling started. When it grew to become clear that the struggle was dragging on for a very long time, Nina crossed the Hungarian border along with her two youngsters whereas her 38-year-old husband Oleksiy joined the Ukrainian armed forces.

1. Eugene Kolychev with Beann Eadair GAA Club teammates
Eugene Kolychev with Beann Eadair GAA Club teammates

When Zoë heard that along with my spouse and me, her sister with two youngsters additionally wanted housing, she stated that she would gladly settle for our total household in her home. Being an exquisite mom of 4 cheerful youngsters, she emphasised that Anna’s niece and nephew would have extra enjoyable within the firm and invited us, strangers, to her residence.

On March thirtieth, my spouse and I flew to Budapest to assist Nina deal with the stress and put together her youngsters for shifting to an English-speaking nation. It’s robust when the entire household is scattered internationally and also you don’t know when you’ll be able to see one another subsequent time. Anna and her sister had been hugging and crying with out saying a phrase for a very long time.

Zoë Quinn (centre) after a race with Eugene Kolychev (left), Anna Kolycheva (right) and children Søren, Silke, Arina, Lev.
Zoë Quinn (centre) after a race with Eugene Kolychev (left), Anna Kolycheva (proper) and kids Søren, Silke, Arina, Lev.

I can’t disguise that I breathed a sigh of reduction on April fifth, after we landed at Dublin Airport. We rapidly handed via passport management, the place the immigration officer requested us if we had been in search of momentary asylum. The distinction between arriving in Dublin and Budapest was monumental. At Dublin Airport, we had been capable of safe the primary paperwork that allowed us to rely on assist from the Government. Despite the late night, the registration took us not more than an hour. After that, we went to Zoë’s home, which grew to become our fortress.

When we arrived, we had been surprised by her friendliness and hospitality.

Positive vitality

Zoë ready new pyjamas, bathrobes, towels and small items for everybody. Her youngsters made drawings with welcoming phrases and Ukrainian flags. We additionally discovered many motivational books, notebooks and playing cards in our rooms. But one of the best motivation to maneuver ahead in direction of a greater future was Zoë. She is a gifted private coach and a record-breaking runner. Running six days per week and doing quite a lot of particular person and group exercises day by day, she energises everybody round her with optimistic vitality.

To present respect for Ireland’s folks and be extra deeply imbued with the nationwide tradition from the primary week of my keep within the nation, I joined Gaelic soccer on the Beann Eadair GAA Club. Local regulars welcomed me into their group with heat and helped me to really feel the environment of a vital a part of Irish sports activities tradition.

6. Zoë Quinn (far left) Eugene Kolychev (far right) with some of their Raheny Shamrock Athletic Club teammates.
Zoë Quinn (far left) Eugene Kolychev (far proper) with a few of their Raheny Shamrock Athletic Club teammates.

Also, I joined one in all Ireland’s oldest athletics golf equipment, Raheny Shamrock Athletic Club, the place I met a bunch of native athletes. Their degree of coaching is spectacular and motivates me to try for one of the best. All of the Irish folks I met are open to communication, warm-hearted and at all times discover phrases of assist for the folks of Ukraine. By the way in which, coaching within the sports activities golf equipment is free for Ukrainians.

My spouse, her sister and I volunteer at Dobra Hata Howth, the place 10 Ukrainian youngsters underneath 17 years outdated have discovered a brand new residence. They got here from Ukraine, alone with out their adults. Some had been compelled to go away their dad and mom; some misplaced their dad and mom. The Russian navy killed them.

I attempt to give younger folks psychological assist and assist outline the necessities of these youngsters who don’t converse English. If attainable, I give them a pleasant shoulder once they want it. I admit it may be difficult to search out the best phrases of assist when youngsters inform tales about how they left the territories occupied by Russia.

Care and respect from the folks of Ireland accompany our household all through our total keep within the nation. Every time we see all these Ukrainian flags, we’re reminded that we’re welcome visitors. Our nephews, Lev and Arina, have already joined St Fintan’s School, the place caring lecturers and pleasant youngsters met them. Parents of classmates despatched Nina dozens of messages with phrases of assist and presents of assist. This is vital. We really feel how honest the Irish persons are once they inform us: “You are very welcome here!”

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