Northern Ireland

Co Down man (31) dies suddenly in Ukraine

Kevin Gregory pictured with his girlfriend Shahnoza Yuldasheva
Kevin Gregory pictured with his girlfriend Shahnoza Yuldasheva

THE family of a Co Down man who died suddenly in Ukraine last night remembered him as someone who was "naturally gifted".

Kevin Gregory, who was born in Belfast but later moved to Leitrim near Castlewellan, died on Saturday morning in Kiev.

The 31-year-old, who lived with his girlfriend, Shahnoza Yuldasheva, who was from Tajikistan in Central Asia, died from heart failure.

A former student of St Malachy's High School in Castlewellan, Mr Gregory later graduated with an Irish degree and as an English teacher from St Mary's University College, Belfast in 2013.

The following year, he moved to China to work as an English teacher at Guangdong Country Garden School in Foshan.

During his time there, the 31-year-old, who had formerly played for Liatroim Fontenoys GAA, became one of the founders of the Shunde Gaels.

During his time in China, he also held teaching positions in Jinan and Tianjin.

In the aftermath of his sudden death, a JustGiving page was set up in a bid to raise the funds needed to bring the young Co Down man home.

Set up with a target of £7,500, last night, more than £20,500 had been raised.

Despite the current unrest in Ukraine, the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which is assisting the family, yesterday confirmed that Mr Gregory's remains are expected to arrive in Dublin today.

Speaking to The Irish News, Conor Gregory described his brother, Kevin as someone who was "naturally gifted".

Mr Gregory said his brother had been with his girlfriend, known as Noza, for eight years.

The pair moved in together in Kiev, where Noza had started a new business, just before Christmas. This came after the couple had been separated for a year due to the Covid pandemic.

"They finally got to live and move in there," he said.

"They were planning to get married. We are just thankful, even though he was far from home, that he was safe next to Noza.

"Growing up, there were six brothers. He was the oldest. He was extremely caring and constantly looking out for us.

"He had no fear. He was willing to explore everywhere. He was the least materialistic person in the world.

"He could pick up any language, being naturally gifted. He was an extremely caring teacher".

Mr Gregory said the family have "never known loss like this before".

"He's always been far away but no matter what, he would always come home. Christmas time was important for us because Kevin came home. He was the cornerstone of everything".

He said the family had been left "completely overwhelmed" by the donations to the JustGiving page, adding that any funds left after paying for the repatriation, would be donated to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust.

"At the moment, we just want him home," he said.

"It will be a huge relief and then we will be able to properly grieve when we see him".