TRIBUTES have been paid to the head of a Hibs fans’ charity based in Ukraine after she lost her battle with cancer.
Ira Polyashova, 56, co-ordinated efforts in Ukraine for the Dnipro Kids Appeal, died on Monday night, seven months after being diagnosed with the illness.
The Dnipro Kids Appeal was formed after Hibs fans were moved by the suffering they saw when their team faced Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Uefa Cup in 2005.
Her colleagues have described her as an “incredible” woman.
Stevie Carr, the chairman of the charity, which provides clothes for orphans and buys medical equipment, said: “Ira was an inspiration to everyone that has ever been involved with the Dnipro Appeal.
“She has been involved in everything that we have done, from our very first visit to the TB sanatorium on September 28, 2005, right through to the orphanage’s trip to Kiev just a couple of weeks ago.
“I am not exaggerating when I say that we would not have managed to do a fraction of what we have done in Ukraine without the help, commitment, hard work, and most importantly love that this incredible woman has given for the charity and for the children we have supported.
“Anyone that ever met her could see her passion for the children, and her passion for Dnipro Kids – she was instrumental in shaping many of the events.”
When news broke of Ira’s illness earlier this year, Hibs fans rallied to raise money to support her two daughters, Natalie, 31, and Masha, 26, and her two granddaughters Karina and Dominica, with whom she shared a one-bedroom flat in Ukraine.
In September 2009, the charity brought Ira to the Capital for the first time.
She spent a total of two weeks in Scotland, travelling the country and meeting people, and she described Edinburgh as “amazing” according to Mr Carr.
He said: “She told me that it was two of the most enjoyable weeks of her life, and her most memorable trip out of Ukraine.”
At the beginning of the month, Mr Carr travelled to Ukraine to help supervise a trip to Kiev for the family.
Unfortunately Ira was too ill to travel, so after the venture, he travelled back down to Dnipropetrovsk where she lived to pay her a visit.
Mr Carr said: “I could see from my visits that the cancer had finally got the better of her, despite the amazing fighting spirit.
“It was a very emotional goodbye for both of us, as we both knew that it was goodbye forever.”
Alix Murray, a member of the Dnipro Kids Appeal who previously lived in Edinburgh said: “We couldn’t have run the charity without her.
“To see someone that didn’t have that much themselves fight so hard to help others was truly humbling. She was an incredible woman.”