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always smiling Appeal launched for Dublin-based Ukrainian man killed in war raises €13,000 in one day

Oleksandr Zavhorodniy (45) died on March 30 when the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine came under heavy bombardment

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Oleksandr Zavhorodniy, known to his friends as Alex, had lived in Ireland for 20 years

Oleksandr Zavhorodniy, known to his friends as Alex, had lived in Ireland for 20 years

Oleksandr Zavhorodniy, known to his friends as Alex, had lived in Ireland for 20 years

A fundraising appeal for the family of a Dublin-based Ukrainian man who was killed fighting the Russian invasion has gathered donations of more than €13,000 in one day.

The GoFundMe page was set up in the wake of the death of Oleksandr Zavhorodniy (45), who died on March 30 when the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine came under heavy bombardment.

The separated father-of-two, who was known to his friends as Alex, had been in Ireland for over 20 years and worked at Aldi in Sandyford, where he was deputy manager.

He had been living in rented accommodation in Stillorgan before travelling back to Ukraine last month.

It’s understood his youngest teenage daughter and former wife managed to escape Ukraine, while his eldest child was not living in the country at the time of the Russian attack.

On the page set up to raise funds for his family, organiser Anya Neilande said: "Our dear friend Alex passed away on the 30th of March.

“As you know, he spent over 20 years in Ireland, where he found his second home. His heart, however, remained in Ukraine, and that's why he chose to go back... to protect his country and its people.

“When Alex arrived in Warsaw, he gave everything he had at the time to those in need (women and children). When he arrived at the military unit, he kept positive and did his best to calm his worrying family and friends by joking and sending funny pictures.

“We all will miss his kindness and cracking sense of humour, even in the most challenging situations.”

Anya said the fundraiser aims to “try and help his family, who are now away from home, mostly displaced, and devastated."

“They will not be able to attend his funerals in his hometown Ohtyrka. Still, we want to ensure his family can give Alex the memorial he deserves to honor his memory and say their last goodbyes.

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“Any donation no matter how small will be greatly appreciated.”

Among some of the messages left alongside the donations is one that reads: “Alex was like a brother to me. Rest in peace my dear friend, you will be miss(ed) dearly.”

Another adds: “Although I do not know Mr Zavhorodniy in person, I feel so sorry for his death, a big loss for his family and what a beautiful Ukraine is suffering now. Sincere condolences to his family. Praying no war in the world.”

Another has added: “I didn't know Alex but am very sorry to hear about this death and all that is happening in your lovely country.”

One person said: “I recognised Olek from Aldi, always smiling, always helpful no matter what the hour. He’ll be sadly missed.”

“I am very sorry for your loss,” added another. “I used to shop in Aldi in Sandyford when I worked near there. Alex was always friendly, professional and helpful.”

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Alex (left) with his friend Janis Neilands

Alex (left) with his friend Janis Neilands

Alex (left) with his friend Janis Neilands

Another who used to shop in the Aldi store added: "Oleksandr was always so friendly and always said hello. Sorry for your loss.”

Organiser Anya added that Alex had been buried in Ohtyrka (but) “unfortunately, his hometown was completely destroyed and was one of the first cities to be attacked on 24th of February.

“Most people have left the city when they had a chance and only a few could come today to say goodbye,” Anya added.

“His youngest daughter, her mum, and aunt arrived in safety last Sunday (Germany).

“There are no words to describe how grateful they are, I passed some news, messages, and wishes on your behalf and even managed to get a laugh from them whilst we discussed just how stubborn he was.”

We earlier revealed how friends, family and colleagues have been left shattered by news of his death.

Alex Cucuet, a Dublin Bus driver, told the Sunday World he had known Mr Zavhorodniy for eight years and they met up every week.

“I was on a break when I heard he had died and was so shocked that I couldn’t go back to work,” he said. “I was concerned when he told me he was going to Ukraine and a few of us tried to stop him.

“He told us he couldn’t just stay here and wait for everything to be finished. He was really proud of the Ukrainian army and had done military service when he was younger.”

Another close friend, Janis Neilands, believes Mr Zavhorodniy was serving as a sniper for the army at the time of his death.

“We came to Ireland at the same time and have been friends since then,” he said. “Alex was always having fun and joking around, even when we were in touch with him during the war. We are all absolutely devastated.”

“We don’t want him to be buried in a mass grave,” he said. “Any money left over will go directly to his two daughters.”

Aldi’s Parnell Street store manager Anton Burihhin, who worked with Mr Zavhorodniy at the Sandyford branch, said his colleagues cried and found it difficult to work when they learned of his death.

“I offered Alex a job seven years ago when I was assistant manager at Sandyford,” he said. “He was very responsible and such an outstanding worker.

“Alex had a very open heart and was a real people person – he worked and lived for his family. He had a huge network of friends and words can’t describe how devastating this news has been.

“People he worked with in Aldi all hope the warehouse door will open and Alex will walk out with a smile, as he always did. All of us refuse to accept the fact he is no longer with us,” he added.

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