Ukrainian cancer patient, 5, flees to Ireland for treatment
A five-year-old Ukrainian boy in desperate need of cancer treatment has arrived in Ireland after crossing the border from Ukraine into Poland.
Leonaid and his parents, Yana and Serghyi Shatoval, fled their home when Russian forces began their invasion of Ukraine last Wednesday, hoping to reach West Cork where Yana’s aunt Victoria Waldon lives.
They were escorted by the police to the Polish border, where they had to wait five hours to cross safely.
Leonaid has leukemia and was hoping to have a bone marrow transplant for her treatment. However, when he and his family went to hospital in Kyiv, the family received Leonaid’s medical records and were told to flee the country.
With the help of West Cork TD Michael Collins and the Foreign Office, the Shatoval family was able to fly from Warsaw to Dublin via Zurich.
Speaking to Patricia Messinger on C103’s Cork Today programme, Deputy Collins explained the family’s situation, saying they had to flee the country without notice.
“Obviously people are trying to evacuate Ukraine, but under the circumstances it was much more urgent,” Deputy Collins said. “You had a five-and-a-half-year-old boy who had had cancer for eight months and was due for a bone marrow transplant in Ukraine.”
‘We told them [upon arriving at the hospital] that they had to leave the country and that they were given [Leonaid’s] medical records,” Deputy Collins said. “They were perhaps one of the first families to arrive in Ireland [as refugees].
‘[The Department of Foreign Affairs] worked closely with the family all night [and] throughout the weekend, to make sure every step of the way was clear and every door was open,’ Mr Collins said, and despite a brief passport problem at Zurich airport, the family was able to get to Ballydehob in West Liège.
Leonaid’s great-aunt Victoria, originally from Ukraine but now living in Ballydehob, tearfully explained the boy was in a race against time as his bone marrow transplant was scheduled for March 10 before life of his family is disrupted by the invasion.
“He needs immediate medical attention,” Victoria explained. “He was on the verge of [going into remission]but now, because he is not in remission, he needs treatment right away.
Deputy Collins then spoke about the current situation surrounding people fleeing Ukraine, adding that he believed the government was “unprepared” for the large influx of Ukrainian refugees the country is expected to see in the coming months. next weeks.
“I was talking to a man from Ukraine, and he said the best way to describe the length of cars trying to cross the border is from West Cork to Cork City,” he said. “I was talking to Ukrainians living in one-bed apartments, and now they have 17-18 family members coming [to Ireland] – where will they stay?
The government is worried about whether it will expel the Russian ambassador,” he continued, “but I think it should focus more on what is needed to house these refugees — have we need a system set up where there will be at least some human housing?
‘It’s gonna be a lot bigger than I think [expected] – you talk to thousands and thousands of people.
While Leonaid and his family are staying with Yana’s aunt Victoria, Deputy Collins said they were made very welcome by neighbors and community members.
Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said the number of Ukrainians expected to enter the country could be so large that some families may be asked to open their doors to temporarily house them.