Ennis has a new volleyball club, Sunflowers VC, all thanks to an enterprising Ukrainian refugee, Anastasia Goriva.
Anastasia fled Kiev last May a few months after the invasion of Ukraine with her mother sister and six year old nephew. Anastasia and her family currently live in a hotel in Ennis.
She started the volleyball club in March, sending messages out on telegram as it is a popular sport in Ukraine. She asked Coláiste Mhuire for the loan of the hall and so Sunflowers VC was born.
The club now has over 20 active members who meet every Wednesday in Coláiste Muire in Ennis.
They also have over 45 members who occasionally play and keep in touch through online messaging. So far the majority of players are from Ukraine, but Anastasia welcomes Irish players and they are seeing some local interest.
“We started from zero here in Ennis and now we are doing things from scratch, we now have a volleyball club and art also. We have had a few interested and come along to practise; this is great. We would love more local Irish players”.” says Anastasia.
“The important thing is that while it is sport it is also social” she adds.
“Now they are looking for more teams to play and new members. They also hope to play a team of Ukrainians from Lisdoonvarna. The idea is for people to play a game and calm down and then maybe go for tea.”
Anastasia says some Irish local people are now playing with the club and they would welcome more.
“We would like to play other Irish teams, we need more people, they have also had an invite from the club in Lisdoonvarna who are also Ukrainians. My mum, she’s 55 years old, she came to play. Some people who have never played before are coming, we support and help each other” she explains.
A project manager in Ukraine who speaks fluent English and Chinese, Anastasia is looking for work but in the meantime has sent up these voluntary enterprises for Ukrainian refugees in the Ennis area.
“The volleyball club in Ennis is my current project to manage but I am also for looking work” explains Anastasia who has also organised art exhibitions for her mother Yeni who is a painter.
And as the summer approaches they are looking to play beach volleyball in County Clare. “All we need is a net and maybe we can play on Lahinch beach” says Anastasia.
The club also marched in the Ennis Saint Patricks Day Parade thanks to local organiser Orla Ni Ealaigh.
Sunflowers Volleyball Club is now affiliated to Volleyball Ireland and meets in Ennis every Wednesday from 7 – 9pm at Colaiste Muire gym in Ennis.
Anastasia sees the volleyball as a scalable project and she would love to establish more clubs around Ireland. And maybe some beach volleyball too.