Fear | 

Concern as anti-Russian hate spreads across country following Ukraine invasion

An 8-year-old Estonian girl who speaks Russian but is living in Cork was called "f**king Russian" and was told to "stop killing Ukrainians"
Anzhelika Samuilova

Anzhelika Samuilova

Lynne Kelleher

In the hours after the invasion of Ukraine, Russian-born Anzhelika Samuilova picked up the phone and called her Ukrainian friend, Olga Shevchenko.

In the long conversation that followed, the two Cork-based immigration lawyers decided to join together to help terrified Ukrainians flee for their lives into Europe along with aiding those now stranded in Ireland.

Anzhelika Samuilova, who is managing director of the immigration and relocation organisation, Time to Move Ireland, and her former classmate, Olga Shevchenko, both studied law at University College Cork.

Over the past few days, the law graduates, who are Irish citizens, have barely slept. Olga’s husband has remained in his wartorn country to fight while Anzhelika also has many friends in the nation now ringing with the sound of air raid sirens.

“I am devastated by the whole situation”, said Russian-born Anzhelika Samuilova.

“It’s surreal. It doesn’t make any sense in my mind.  It's not my war, I've been living in Ireland for 13 or 14 years.

“I haven't even been to Russia for the past seven years. We all feel devastation even those who support Putin.”

The lawyer, who has an Irish passport, has watched events unfold in horror like the rest of the world.  While she loves her country but she doesn’t “identity as a Putin supporter and I don’t support the war”.

Over the past few days, the lawyers have been volunteering their services to Ukrainians in Ireland in extending their permissions or applying for new ones on a voluntary basis.

“I run my own immigration company and we help people from different countries not only Russia to emigrate in the world.

“We have a student in Griffith College in Limerick and his parents were supposed to come from Ukraine for his birthday, they are now in the shelter and their town is being bombed.

“I talked to him yesterday and he said it was the first time in ten years he was crying, he felt helpless. He wanted to know if they could come here now.”

She has been heartened by the generosity of Irish people after hearing one couple left a 100 euro tip in a restaurant for the chef, as they knew he was Ukrainian, while others are offering rooms in their houses to those fleeing the war.

While Olga has been fielding phone call after phone call to help her stricken countrymen and women, her husband is in Ukraine defending his country from the Russian invasion.

"Olga's husband is in Lvov right now, fighting for his country”, said Anzhelika Samuilova.

"Her classmate, a Ukrainian national,  was trying to cross the border today in Poland with his 20-year-old daughter, who's an Irish national, and was refused to leave by Ukraine. He's in his 40s and used to live in Ireland.

"He is of age and has been called to arms.

“For the last 48 hours, we've been figuring out people who can take them by car in Poland and Romania and Moldova, we’re providing all the support we can to those people.

“They are panicked, they don’t know what to do, and many of them have young kids and they are just afraid they are going to die.”

With planes grounded, people have to make their way out of the country by car but many of the gas stations now have no fuel.

She has welcomed the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD has announced the immediate lifting of visa requirements between Ukraine and Ireland.

But she added: “There are still questions as to what are they supposed to do after 90 days, are they deemed to be eligible for subsidiary protection because their country is at war despite the 5-day rule.”

In the wake of the invasion, she has been growing increasingly disturbed at reports of incidents of racism against Russian speakers living in Ireland in recent days.

“My friend, who is a Russian national,  went to the embassy yesterday to renew her passport and there was red paint on the emblem of the embassy in Dublin

“While she was walking in there with her daughter they were screaming, ‘murderers, Russians are murderers’.

“She didn’t kill anybody. She lives in Ireland. On the way home she was in shock, she took a bus, and the bus driver heard her accent, asked where she was from, and she said she was from Russia.

“He said, ‘Why are you killing Ukrainians.?’

In another incident, she said an 8-year-old Estonian girl who speaks Russian but is living in Cork was called "f**king Russian" and was told to "stop killing Ukrainians".

It has made her fearful that hate speech will be directed at her own kids after seeing reports on social media from her Russian friends in countries like New Zealand and the UK that children are being bullied for being Russian.

The lawyer said there is also fear among Russians in other countries that they will be expelled due to Putin’s actions, especially in light of Belgium coming out in recent days in favour of the EU terminating visa issuance to all Russians, even students, workers, and tourists.

“We have 30 students from Russia studying right now here in Ireland. How can you send those people from Ireland to Russia because some guy in the Kremlin decided to invade Ukraine? How does that make sense and who does it help?”

She said Putin will be happy if all the highly educated people, who have fled his regime, are returned to the country.

The lawyer said people who protest are put in prison with one of her own friends locked up for three days simply being near a protest relating to Crimea a few years ago.

“If you do go to a protest you are just taken by the police no questions asked.”

She also said the Russian people are getting a very different version of events on the conflict from the pro-Russian state media in the country who are framing the conflict as an operation to save the people in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine from torture.

“If you look at the Russian news, it’s never called war, it’s called a military operation.

“They are putting it that the people in Donetsk and Luhansk are struggling, they are bombed, they are tortured and those people came to Russia, came Putin and said ‘help us’”

She doesn’t believe support for Putin will change among his supporters until the country has a free media but has seen many neutrals turn against the Russian leader on social media since the invasion.

If Ukrainians want to contact Anzhelika Samuilova and Olga Shevchenko for help they can contact asamuilova@timetomove.ie

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