After leaving Ukraine under bombardment, Natasha and her children find sanctuary in Desisi

Natasha Baidok, 38, left Ukraine and arrived in Disis on March 11 with her two children, Micah, 7, and Maria, 12. She is in daily contact, by phone, with her husband, Artem, who has remained in their country. It was the Decizoise family, made up of Hervé and Anna Cotton and their children Eléna, Romain and Alessia, who decided to welcome them.


Unfortunately, Natasha had already experienced the war in Lugansk, where she lived in a separatist district from which she fled in 2014. “I decided to leave because this area was not recognized and because I was pregnant, I wanted to get legal papers for my child. I headed east to an aunt’s house. in Kharkiv [deuxième ville du pays]It is a city we have lived in with my family ever since. »

start of war

February 24, 2022, 5 a.m. The bombing woke me, my husband and my children. Violent noises after a missile launch. It was a shock. We felt the tension with Russia building for a while but no one wanted to believe it was going to happen… Then, very quickly, we realized that everything had been planned for a while with the attack on the airports and major cities…”

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Very quickly, they looked for a place to take shelter. “I remembered that in 2014, the instructions were above all to resort not behind one facade but behind two walls. At last we found the sanctuary, with other people, in the basement of our building.”

Nine days hidden in the basement of the building

With neighbors, life is organized in the basement where the family will stay for nine days. “We just took the mattresses and blankets. You could hear the city bombing regularly. Once it calmed down, we went back to the apartments to eat the food available to us. We had little to eat… We did what we had because the stores emptied quickly. Once I tried shopping. After Two hours lining up, without really moving forward, I gave up. We heard that a food convoy was coming to deliver the food but it wasn’t arriving… We spent nine days without being able to shower. Meanwhile, the volunteers were organizing themselves to defend their country.

On their ninth day in the basement, a bomb fell on the building. No one is hurt. “But that was the trigger. My husband wanted me to leave with the children so that we would be safe.”

Evacuation, test

It was Natasha’s husband who brought them to the evacuation train that connected Kharkiv to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. “It was chaos. There was a big crowd. We were afraid of running over the children. Finally the three of us were able to get on the train, which rolled very gently for 14 hours. While passing towards Kyiv, all the train lights were cut off so as not to be detected and a target for bombs. It was Very scary. On arrival, we were picked up by a family that our friends know. We were able to shower and eat. For his part, my husband learned that a family from Desizu had offered to welcome Ukrainians, via the announcement posted on the social network Telegram. He called them and they agreed to take me with my two children. »

The next day, the family decided to cross the Polish border, which was organized by the Red Cross. “It was very difficult, both physically and psychologically. There was almost 10 kilometers of queue. It took a nine hour walk to get to Poland. There was a lot of crying… But once you crossed the border, there was relief. It was all Well organized thing. We were able to find accommodation and get medicines…”

Desizy Arrival

The family was then able to travel to a town in the west where they stayed for three days in a shelter. “The Scouts of France provided us with help and psychological and legal support to continue our journey. We took several trains: Berlin, Cologne, Brussels, Paris, Nevers and Desise.”

Since their arrival, Natasha and her children have known that they are safe and can breathe a little. But their thoughts are constantly turning to the people they left behind. First of all, Artem, who was able to take refuge in another city in the countryside. But also towards those who fight [« Gloire aux héros », scande Natasha] Or those who live, every day, with the anguish of bombing.

Natasha is now hoping for a quick win from Ukraine. She and her children dream of returning to their country and living with Artem in the house they are building. But if Russia wins, I don’t want to go back. »

Life is organized for them in Decize

The help of the Ukrainians was evident for Desizo Hervé, Anna Cotton and their three children, Elena, Roman and Alicia: “The question was not even asked … I am of Belarusian origin but feel very close to the Ukrainian people,” Anna’s book between two sighs.

Two years ago, terrible things happened in Belarus, the day after the elections, due to disagreement over the results. People were mistreated and imprisoned… Many left the country and Ukraine was one of the countries that welcomed them. It is natural today to help them. »

The couple decided to join a group dedicated to helping Ukrainians come to France via the social network Telegram. “We asked Natasha’s husband if we could house his wife and two children so that they would be safe. A request we accepted immediately.”

Once in Desisi, Natasha and her children were well supported. “We helped them with all the administrative procedures,” explains Hervey Cotton. “We took them to the province of Nevers for registration, as well as to the French immigration office in Dijon. They have refugee status.”

At Decize, the family also helped Restos du Coeur, the Red Cross and Secours Catholique. The help is Yasmina Bozola [chargée des affaires scolaires]It was also a great help in enrolling children in school. Misha, 7, goes to Lacanal and Maria, 12, is in sixth grade at Maurice College of Geneva. I was also very touched by the very warm welcome from her classmates on the first day. »

Natasha, who speaks English, started learning French with the Sud-Nivernais Literacy Association. She is also fortunate to be able to communicate in her mother tongue with a few people, including another woman of Ukrainian origin who has settled with her husband and children in Desisi since 2020. A stronger affinity because they both come from the same city in Ukraine, Kharkiv.

Natasha, a beverage distributor in her country, wants to find a job during her time in Desisi. While she waits to be able to return to Ukraine and find her husband…

Estelle Bion

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