Truckload of Aran knitwear leaves Ireland for Belarus

Fruits of of Inis Oírr’s year-long charity ‘knitathon’ are bound for Minsk orphanage

Aran knitwear has graced the catwalks of Milan, Paris and New York but a very special truckload is making its way this week to an orphanage just outside Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

For almost a year, residents of the smallest of the Aran Islands, from aged 90 right down to the four-year-old girls and boys of Inis Oírr’s naíonra, or kindergarten, have taken out their bioráin cniotála (knitting needles) to knit scarves, gloves, sweaters, hats and socks for the charity initiative.

Last week the final stitch was made and the needles were put down. Some 400 items were laid out like a large multicoloured tapestry for people to admire at Scoil Náisiúnta Chaomháin .

They were delivered to the Monastery, Ennistymon last Sunday where Brother Liam O’Meara, a stalwart of the “Burren for Belarus” project which helps young victims of the Chernobyl disaster, had arranged to transport them across Europe to the orphanage.

The aim is to have the children wearing a little piece of Inis Oírr on Christmas Day. The clothing serves a real need in a city where temperatures can drop to minus 20 degrees.

Clicking needles

The “Inis Oírr for Belarus” project was the idea of the island’s public health nurse, Bairbre Uí­ Chualáin. “My sister in law, Elizabeth Feeney, is involved in charity work for Brother Liam. I had seen and admired the work,” she says.

“My own work puts me in touch with most of the people on Inis Oírr so I suggested to them on each call: why not knit garments for the orphans?”

There was a 90 per cent take-up, according to Bairbre. Instead of relaxing in front of the sitting room TV after tea, balls of wool were thrown on the floor and the clatter of clicking needles began filling the island’s homesteads.

Among those taking part were knitters of serious pedigree: the women of Comhar na nAosach (the association of seniors). All the schools on the island joined the effort too as did the pre-school. The children got to know how to do the plain stitch while their tutors or parents looked after the purl and the crossover.

Source: Irish Times Dec 22 2016


Chernobyl children arrive: ‘Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them’

A group of 39 children from Chernobyl have arrived at Dublin Airport with Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International group to spend the Christmas holidays in Ireland, thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Video: Bryan O'Brien

A group of 39 children from Chernobyl have arrived at Dublin Airport with Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International group to spend the Christmas holidays in Ireland, thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Video: Bryan O'Brien

Heralded by cries of delight, cheers and tears, and serenaded with seasonal songs , the latest group of children from Belarus and Ukraine were welcomed to Ireland on Wednesday by their host families and Chernobyl Children International.

Thirty-nine children with special needs from the area affected by the fallout of the 1986 nuclear disaster, together with six carers, were led by Santa Claus, and charity founder Adi Roche, into the Dublin Airport arrivals hall to a raucous reception.

To those waiting on loved ones arriving for Christmas, there is a sign on the sliding door that separates the baggage collection area from the arrivals hall. “The best Christmas present ever is about to walk through these doors,” it says.

And when the children arrived, it was not at all clear who was more excited, them or their host families.

“Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Igor,” said Marie Cox from Mayo, shortly before rushing forward to embrace the 16-year-old in a wheelchair, smothering him with the motherly love she has given him for the past eight years during his twice yearly visits to Ireland.

“He is part of our family now,” said Marie. “We just love him so much at this stage. He’s our fifth son.”

Abandoned as a baby

Igor Shadkov, who is from Belarus and has multiple physical and mental disabilities, was abandoned as a baby and left to the Vesnova Children’s Mental Asylum, a Soviet-era institution at Gomel near the Belarus-Ukraine border long since modernised.

The limitations of his life beyond his various birth conditions were painfully obvious when he first came to the Coxes.

“He had never been out of the orphanage,” recalls Marie. “He’d never experienced wind, he’d never felt rain on his face. He hadn’t seen the stars and he’d never slept in his own room.”

Since then, he has had his own space in their Castlebar home, including his own box filled with toys and familiar gadgets that are there for him, every Christmas and summer.

His face lit up in the airport when he saw his Irish mother.

For Eileen Morrisey from Kilkenny, Vassili Lyskovets, aged 25, is her “superstar”, always smiling and “another brother to Orla”, her daughter.

Eileen’s friend Carmel Everard, also from Kilkenny, plays host to 12-year-old Ivan who comes from Khoniki on the Ukraine-Belarus border. It was one of the areas worst affected by the fallout. Ivan has just one kidney and struggles on a poor diet back home.

Greeting and hugging

“He’s eating and drinking everything that’s bad out there,” said Carmel, “and so we try to feed him well. Within two days, there’s an improvement in his skin pallor.”

The families surged forward, greeting and hugging the delighted arrivals as the eight-strong choir of students from Bimm, the British and Irish Modern Music institute, Dublin, gave it their all.

Source: Irish Times Dec 22 2016