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  • Writer's pictureHelping Irish Hosts

Bronagh's experience of hosting displaced Ukrainians in her holiday home in Donegal

Bronagh has hosted five people from Ukraine in her holiday home in Donegal over the past year. Here she shares about the experience and offers advice to others who might be considering pledging their property.

The reason I decided to offer my holiday home was because I suppose the situation in Ukraine was highly publicised and then the refugees from Ukraine started coming to Ireland looking for accommodation and I wanted to help their situation. In terms of registering the holiday home, it was about March 2022, just after the conflict started in February. I initially registered with the Irish Red Cross and I had a call out in the summer from the Council to inspect the house. And then eventually it was Helping Irish Hosts who got the guests placed there around a year later. It was frustrating when you heard of this crisis of accommodation and the poor people living in hotel rooms. But saying that, I knew there could be an issue because this property is rural and wouldn’t necessarily suit everybody. 

Meeting our guests

A mother and her twin daughters, who were five years old at the time, moved in, in April of 2023. Then in May another lady moved in and another woman she knew moved in shortly after that. The house is big enough for them and I think the idea was that they’d help each other out and it would be company for them. The mother and the two children were collected in City West and brought up here by a volunteer group supporting new arrivals. When they arrived, myself, my husband and two of our children met them. We had done some shopping for them and took them out for dinner. That day or the next day we took them shopping because all they had was their suitcase. So over the first few weeks, I kept in touch and helped get them settled. As I said the house was a holiday house, so it had everything they needed but we just got some things for the children, some toys and bikes. They asked me about bus routes, dentists and GPs and all that. I’d say it was tough for them settling into a rural area, never mind whatever they'd left behind in Ukraine.

Positives of the experience

I’d say the positives are that I know the accommodation is being used and valued because of the guests being there. They feel safe there and they’re settling in well. It’s good from my point of view, you feel like you’ve given them something that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. I know they definitely do miss Ukraine but they are also extremely grateful. They are genuine people looking to escape the throws of war.

Challenges of the experiences

We haven’t faced major challenges. One concern at the start was how reliant they were going to be on me. I made it clear to Helping Irish Hosts and to them that I couldn’t be at their beck and call the way other hosts might be if guests are living in their house. It is a self contained house and we made the decision not to put anything in their name in terms of utility bills, because if one guest left then that’s a hassle getting it changed. So they send me their contribution to the bills and I sort them out and they’re incredibly appreciative of that.

Everybody was aware that the house is in a rural location but I think that can be hard for them in terms of accessing medical services and getting in and out from town. And I don’t live locally so there isn’t much I can do but I’ve reached out to Helping Irish Hosts to get support with that. A couple of neighbours have offered to help them out and I would be concerned about them becoming reliant on them, but it’s a natural thing to ask for help, living in a strange country especially.

How long to offer your space for

When I signed up I agreed to host for a year. I said to them that we’ll talk about it again when that time comes closer, around May 2024. I think I’d be happy to extend it but it was never my intention to rent out the property so I think I’d encourage them to move on eventually to establish themselves in Ireland properly. 

Advice for hosting in your holiday home

I think if you’re considering offering your holiday home or second property then go for it. These people need it and in my situation the holiday home wasn’t used a whole lot. There was a bit of a sacrifice from my family’s point of view but it wasn’t anything like what the guests are going through. There’s also the financial bonus and you’ve got somebody living in your home which is always better than having a property lying empty. There’s no real downside to it.

I’d also advise other hosts to let your guests lead conversations about their lives in Ukraine, they do offer up some information but it’s incredibly hard for them. 

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