Ukrainian football fan meets his idol as refugees prepare for Aviva clash tonight
Ukrainian football fan Mattvii Rybkin (12) was blown away after he was able to video call his favorite football player Vitaliy Mykolenko yesterday.
attvi has been invited to attend a Republic of Ireland training session ahead of the Ukraine vs Ireland Nations League match at the Aviva Stadium tonight.
During the session, Irishman Seamus Coleman video called Everton team-mate and Ukrainian footballer Vitaliy Mykolenko so he could talk to his young fan.
Other football fans preparing to watch the match live are friends Rostik Manchenkko (15) and Andrew Mannion (12), but they will be roaring for different teams.
Rostik fled to Ireland because of the war and lives with a host family in Athlone with his mother, father, brother and sister.
Naoise Mannion welcomed them to join her family of six, so it is now an occupied house of 11. His son Andrew has formed a great friendship with Rostik as they are both football fans.
The boys will travel to Dublin today with Grace Kennedy from Galway, who helped bring the Manchenko family to Ireland.
She is also taking two other Ukrainian refugees she brought to Ireland, Arsene Bretaslavko (15) and Sviatoslav Deresh (15).
“Tomorrow I’m driving from Galway to Dublin for the game and bringing the four boys,” she told the Irish Independent.
“I had wanted to bring them, I promised to bring them.
“They text me all the time and when I saw the game was coming up I thought ‘that would be cool’.”
Ms Kennedy quit her job as a lecturer at NUI Galway to help people fleeing war in Ukraine.
So far she and a friend have helped around 600-700 people settle in Ireland.
For the past three months she’s been flying to the border, chatting with people, helping them get to Ireland, then once they’re here she’s set them up with a host family .
“We had sent huge amounts of aid, but it’s better to get them out, get them across the border, get them to safety and bring them to Ireland,” she said.
“What we do is we put videos on Facebook saying we have this family, then the hosts get in touch and then we do a video call to introduce them to each other to see if it’s a fit.
“Almost all the time it works.”
Ms Kennedy’s work has been made possible by people who have donated to her online fundraiser, but with just £4,000 left in the kitty, she hopes people will keep donating .
At one point, the speaker said she had thousands of unread messages from people wanting her help and said it can be frustrating not being able to help everyone.
“It’s been so busy, I never thought it would snowball for a few days,” she said.
“I taught law at NUI Galway and hope to go back in September, but I will never regret doing it, I will find a job.
“There were times when we had to focus on the elderly and young children, you can’t help everyone.
“I’m here in Ireland this week and will be gone next week.
“As long as there is money in the GoFundMe, we will continue.”