'This country gave me a lot': Navy welcomes rise in multi-ethnic recruits

'This country gave me a lot': Navy welcomes rise in multi-ethnic recruits
Passing Out Parade of Recruit Class “Patrick Murphy" in Haulbowline Navy Base. Pictures: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

There was a time when surnames such as Murphy, Keane and Quinn would predominate among new recruits at passing out parades in the Naval Service.

However, there's been a distinct change in recent times - a reflection of how multi-ethnic the country has become, and it's being warmly welcomed by naval bosses.

Among the 38 recruits who passed out as Ordinary Seamen today were men born in Eastern Europe and Italy.

Gevgenijs Jelisejenkovs, 19, hailed from Latvia and moved with his parents to Castlebar, Co Mayo a few years ago.

The imposing 6ft 5in, 17st young man said he always wanted a military career, as his late grandfather was a border guard in Latvia.

“He inspired me to move into a strict regime,” Gevgenijs said.

Having played rugby with Castlebar RFC he's already being eyed up for the navy's first team.

He also said he did a small bit of boxing. However, his mother Snezana – known to her Irish friends as Hannah – pointed out her son was being modest as he'd represented his adopted Ireland at the European boxing championships.

“His grandad would have been very proud of him today, but sadly he's no longer with us. Gevgenijs really matured during his 20 weeks of training,” she said.

Rihards Bikovskis, 20, was also born in Latvia and moved to Cavan when he was 14.

“I always wanted a military lifestyle and something drew me towards the sea,” he said.

His mother, Inguana, was beaming with joy and declared he looked very handsome in uniform.

Italian-born Marco Prandi, came to Dublin from Rome four years ago to study English and after a spell working in the retail sector in Limerick decided to join up.

“This is my home now. This country gave me a lot and joining the Naval Service is pay-back time,” Marco said.

'This country gave me a lot': Navy welcomes rise in multi-ethnic recruits

Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Commodore Michael Malone, said it was great to have people from different backgrounds and ethnicity joining the navy.

Around 10 different countries of birth are now represented within the force, many of them from Eastern Europe.

During their training, the recruits took time out to earn some money for a worthy cause, the Make a Wish Foundation.

They raised money from units in the naval base and then took part in a rowathon at Wilton shopping centre.

The recruits rowed a combined distance of 193 nautical miles, which is the equivalent of rowing from Cork to Rosslare then onto Carlingford Lough.

They also conducted a route march from Haulbowline to Cobh, a total distance of 12.7 miles while carrying a full backpack.

So far they have raised €2,550 and intend to continue fundraising over the coming weeks for the same charity.


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