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From Direct Provision to Now: My Journey Home

“This Christmas, although sad and lonely, I am grateful that I can feel at home in Ireland. All my thoughts are with those who don’t have a place to call home, and cannot protect themselves from COVID19 due to crowded conditions in refugee camps all over the world.”

By Zoryana Pshyk

Let me take you back to Christmas 2006. It was a time of uncertainty when life as I knew it was falling apart. I was living in Kilmacud House, a transition direct provision centre in Stillorgan, South Dublin. My husband and I were sitting at a bunk bed watching TV unthoughtfully attached to the ceiling. My neck was hurting… I was not in a good place. I had left everything I knew behind me and now was in this strange “lockdown” situation because everything in my life was controlled by somebody else.

For the next six years I lived in direct provision centres; places which “have been on lockdown for 20 years” (Lucky Khambule, Facebook post, Dec 15, 2020)  – where life stopped and time froze… So, the current feeling of ‘isolation from the society’ during the Covid19 pandemic is not new to me – maybe, that’s why it feels so comfortable and familiar.

Fast forward to 2020, and I am sitting in front of my Christmas tree in my home in South Kildare writing this blog entry. I have just finished lecturing my first module in the Philosophy of Adult Education with the Maynooth University, Department of Adult and Community Education (DACE) Higher Diploma in Further Education (HDFE), and I’m looking forward to reading students’ essays. The philosophy of adult education is very close to my heart: it gave me a framework to understanding my own life and helped me to find my life-path.  

When I arrived in Ireland, I had Masters in Philology, (the study of the history of language) but living in the direct provision system without the right to work or engage in education left me deskilled, with low self-esteem, and no confidence. It took eight years for me to “upgrade” my education credentials in Ireland to the same level as I had when I arrived. I worked hard learning to name my  world with Freire, and pushing the boundaries and transgressing together with Bell Hooks.

There were times during this time when I was falling apart, and my world was collapsing from the pain that transformative learning entails (Taylor & Cranton, 2013, p.40). It was also very physically, mentally and financially demanding. Over those years I have come to realise that our life experiences are like funnels that squeeze us into understanding the world in a particular way. They shape who we are, our relation to the world, and to those who share the world with us.

Learning with others and from others while reflecting on experience is the learning and teaching that resonates with me deeply. The Pandemic created a huge opportunity for learning – it’s even scary to think how in a few months we got used to this word! A situation that had never been known to us in our lifetime.

What can we learn from each other in this time? Can we learn what isolation does to us? What can we learn from those on the margin? Can we walk in their shoes this Christmas? Is the pandemic a humanizing experience for all of us, or is it a traumatic experience that will leave us all broken? Can we learn compassion? Time will answer those questions.

This Christmas is going to be a tough time for everyone, but especially for those who lost their loved ones. It is going to be tough for those who are self-isolating or cannot meet each other due to travel restrictions abroad. This Christmas, although sad and lonely, I am grateful that I can feel at home in Ireland. All my thoughts are with those who don’t have a place to call home, and cannot protect themselves from COVID19 due to crowded conditions in refugee camps all over the world. That amounts to almost eighty million people worldwide (Figures at a Glance – UNHCR). My thoughts are with those who are right in the heart of this country still living in direct provision – in 20 years long lockdown (Khambule, 2020). The Pandemic has already proven to us how unstable our lives and the world are. In the light of this learning, it is important to remember that everybody is a potential refugee.

I am looking at my Christmas tree decorated with painted pinecones, stars, angels, and felted wreaths; all sorts of decorations given to me by friends when I was still living in direct provision. The kindness and warm wishes they arrived with will always stay with me. So, every year, I decorate my tree with the memories of the deep gratitude I have to people who have been there for me over the years.

At the end of 2020 I invite you to share your well-wishes. Take a few minutes to reflect on the year that we are leaving behind and write down three wishes for yourself for the coming year. Select one of the wishes and wish it to someone else: your loved ones, or neighbours, or to strangers on the streets, or those less fortunate – gifting your wish from your heart to theirs. Let’s make the world a warmer place with love and well-wishes.

Щасливого Різдва! / Happy Christmas! / Nollaig Shona Duit!

References:

Taylor, Edward, & Patricia Cranton (2013) A theory in progress? Issues in transformative learning theory. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults 4(1):35-47. DOI: 10.3384/rela.2000-7426.rela5000

UNHCR Ireland (2020) Figures at a Glance. https://www.unhcr.org/en-ie/figures-at-a-glance.html#:~:text=How%20many%20refugees%20are%20there,under%20the%20age%20of%2018

Zoryana Pshyk holds Masters in Philology from Chernivtsi National University, Ukraine, a Higher Diploma in Further Education and a Masters in Adult and Community Education from Maynooth University. Zoryana is an adult educator with a specific interest in Freirean approach. She is a core part of the Community Education team, Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB), and a facilitator with Partners Training for Transformation. Zoryana is a current representative of Newbridge Asylum Seekers Support Group (NASSG) on the Kildare Public Participation Network (PPN), as well as a chairperson of the Kildare Integration Network (KIN). She is an active participant in local community development with the emphasis on Social Inclusion and a board member of the County Kildare Leader Partnership.

By DACE Maynooth

This is the new blog for students, colleagues and friends of the Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University. We aim to promote diversity and inclusion in education using our online platform. Guest bloggers and friends of the Department will post about their research and experiences in Education. The views expressed by the authors of individual posts do not reflect the views of the Department of Adult and Community Education Maynooth University.

10 replies on “From Direct Provision to Now: My Journey Home”

Enjoyed your blog so much Zoryana.
As new Covid restrictions are coming quickly down the tracks, and we complain about our lack of freedom, you remind us how lucky we are.
The system of direct provision is inhumane and has no place in our country. I admire your courage & strength.

Liked by 1 person

Beautiful Zoryana. For you and your family, my wish I give to you, is continued learning and success. Your journey brings me joy, to watch you blossom into a powerful strong and articulate woman. Thank you for sharing x. Your story you shared with my class in 2015/16 still resonates with me. Thank you for contributing to my learning.

Liked by 2 people

Zoryana, you are a shining example of the triumph of hope over adversity and the power of community education. I am proud to be your colleague. (And I’m glad to see your Christmas tree has replaced your desk;)).

Liked by 1 person

Dear Zoryana, your story is extremely moving and inspirational. I would like to share it with people that I work with who are in the Direct Provision system as it is very motivating and shows that there is always hope even in the darkest of moments. Well done to you on all your achievements and I hope that Ireland will continue to be a good home for you. You are so right with what you say about the uncertainty of life and Covid has been a stark reminder of this. None of us can or should take anything for granted. Thank you for your story. The very best wishes for the new year and on.

Liked by 2 people

Thank you for this thoughtful and inspiring blog. We can forget how much of the world deals with the restrictions of freedom and a chronic lack of safety as part of their everyday experience. Thank you for sharing your story and your achievements. The direct provision system is a shameful part of our society and must be dismantled immediately. I wish for the new year that all in Direct Provision are welcomed into our society as equal and valued members as we live together to build a more just and caring country. Thank you.

Liked by 2 people

Thanks for these lovely sentiments on this most unusual of Christmases. And thankyou for reminding us of those who have faced the challenges of isolation and separation long before this. This pandemic can teach us so much if we allow it to – afterall transformational learning can take place continuously if we allow it to and welcome it.

Liked by 2 people

I know you as a friend from our HDFE days, but I did not know you had experienced, or should I say endured, the direct provision experience. Thank you for sharing your experience, it adds to your admirable endeavors to make our society more informed and inclusive. You are a remarkable person and I am a better one for knowing you. Best wishes in all you do.

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