“We are leaving to save our children”: a meeting with the Ukrainian refugees who left everything

In this Parisian cafe where she invites us to meet, Irina Kharchenko passionately recounts her trip from Kyiv with her son Yuri, when a customer approached her and handed her a paper with her name and phone number written on it: “Excuse me- I heard your conversation, I am ready to help you, what do you need?” The call is made.

“You know, we are often called in the metro:“You Ukrainians are very brave,” Irina continues. It is very touching.

The largest population movement in Europe since World War II

The Russian invasion caused the largest population movement in Europe after World War II. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than ten million people have left their homes, six million people have been “displaced” within the country, and four million asylum seekers have gone abroad.

Poland, which today hosts nearly 2.23 million, is starting to saturate. “In Warsaw, Ukrainian refugees make up 20% of the population, and the number one hundred and thirty thousand who settled in Krakow, analyzes the Polish documentary filmmaker Krzysztof Talczyewski. And if so, it is thanks to the massive outburst of solidarity among our compatriots. ”

The reception is also organized in Paris. From the first days of the war, the Ukrainians who arrived in France by car were taken care of by the state services and the city of Paris in a center in the 18th arrondissement.

Delphine Roilo, General Manager of France, the land of asylum. We have been through many crises, but the number of people arriving by their own means and with their connections in France and southern Europe obliges us to have another organization and different rights such as temporary protection. This new device is more secure than the current asylum application.

This status was activated in early March at the initiative of France, which holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, and this status is valid for six months and is renewable as long as the war continues, and authorizes work.

Today, in the face of an influx of refugees – 30,000 at the beginning of April, the government is preparing to receive nearly a hundred thousand people by the end of the summer – it is now a “large centre”, installed at the Porte de Versailles, which serves as an airlock.

“The buses arrive at any time, the teams are there to provide food and provide first aid,” Delphine Roilo continues. We have four hundred and forty places, the refugees spend a night or two there before continuing their journey to Spain or Portugal. Those who want to stay in France and those who have no place To leave or the family are accommodated in hotels in the provinces, the Paris region cannot accommodate everyone. ”

Like the Ukrainian community, Olga Hotenko, who is married to a Frenchman, is mobilizing. She managed to bring out her family consisting of women: her aunt, 75, her mother, 61, her sister Oksana, her nieces Karina and Darina, 5 and 12. They embarked on a car journey from central Ukraine, made perilous by snow, fuel rationing, military roadblocks and border storming.

We took them in Hungary. I brought my sister and nieces by plane, and my husband drove home with my mother and aunt. The support network warms my heart. At school from our village near Avignon, the teachers reassured us, saying: “We will take care of your children.”

Solidarity and citizen housing

The family is slowly turning in but is still permanently connected to Ukrainian TV channels and Telegram to keep in touch with those who remain. “They informed us and sent us videos of the bombings, a friend of the photos of his mother’s apartment destroyed by Russian soldiers and held hostage for two days …”

I set up a cat to pay him a plane ticket. Today, cohabitation is going well, she has become a friend but she is traumatized and not shrunken.

But mutual aid is not limited to the circle of family or friends. Claire Lorig, a 22-year-old Parisian student, does not know Ukraine. She responded to an advertisement on the Facebook page of the European Youth Parliament (EYP), of which she is a member.

“A few days later, Victoria called me from Odessa. I was very afraid for her, I shared via Telegram his fears and then his journey across Europe. I set up a cat to pay him a plane ticket. Today, cohabitation is going well, she has become a friend but she is traumatized and not shrunken. You should consult.”

“This is the whole difficulty of a citizen’s housing,” emphasizes Delphine Roilo, whose goodwill and “I have a sofa” are not enough. “If you go away for the weekend, you have to leave the keys, something in the fridge, the eating habits are not the same, not to mention the night terrors of those people who are traumatized by the war. We run the social and legal support, work with it JRSAnd SingaporeAnd associations specialized in receiving citizens. Everyone has a role.”

UNHCR also aims to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable refugees, minors, gays, the elderly, and the disabled.

The dangers of violence and passage on the roads of exile

“This crisis is specific, because all families are separated, admits Celine Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. However, we know that women and girls are more at risk of violence and traffic on the roads of exile. And if this is the flow of generosity in Poland and France That’s great, we need a framework to counter malicious offers. We’ve developed web platforms and campaign stay safe With the correct information at the borders and at the stations.”

My husband who fights writes to us via Telegram, just a few words: “Everything is fine”, “I am alive”.

Today, the issue of stability arises in France. Many Ukrainian families say they want to leave as soon as possible. “The main concern of women is to find out if the father of their children is still alive, remembers Delphine Royault. After that, everything will depend on the duration of the war. Today, we are in the logic of assimilation: learn French, find a job so as not to stay in A very critical situation.”

A positive sign, according to national education, as of March 31, 6,800 Ukrainian children were in school in France. This crisis will have the advantage of making us think about the meaning we give to solidarity.

“The challenge we face today is that these French families who say they are ready to welcome Ukrainian families into their homes have a long-term commitment and take into account that the people displaced by the war also come from Afghanistan and Eritrea,” continues the Director General of France, the land of asylum.

“And if we are happy that the state has shown its capacity to welcome people well, we regret the gap in care. All war refugees, regardless of their nationality must be protected. I don’t want to argue, but take it as proof that we can do better.” .

Leave a Comment