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

In this Parisian café, where she invites us to meet, Iryna Kharchenko tells with feelings about her escape from Kiev with her son Yurii, when a client comes and hands her a piece of paper on which she has written her name and phone number: “Sorry- I heard your conversation, I’m ready to help you, what do you need?” Contact is made.

“You know, we are often called out on the subway: ‘You Ukrainians are so brave,’ Iryna continues. It’s very touching.”

Europe’s largest population movement 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 (UNHCR), more than ten million people have left their homes, six million have been “displaced” within the country and four million have traveled to seek refuge abroad.

Poland, which today houses nearly 2.23 million, is starting to get saturated. “In Warsaw, Ukrainian refugees represent 20% of the population, they are one hundred and thirty thousand who have settled in Krakow, analyzes the Polish documentary filmmaker Krzysztof Talczewski. If it holds, it is thanks to the huge wave of solidarity among our citizens. . “

Also in Paris, the reception is organized. From the first days of the war, Ukrainians who reached France by car were cared for by government services and the city of Paris in a center in the 18th arrondissement.

“This culture of hospitality has been in our DNA for more than fifty years,” explains Delphine Rouilleault, general manager of French asylum country. We have experienced many crises, but the number of people arriving on their own and with ties to France and southern Europe commits us to having a different organization and other rights such as temporary protection. This new entity is more protective than the current asylum application.

Activated in early March, at the initiative of France, which holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, this status, valid for six months and can be extended as long as the war lasts, allows work.

Today, facing the influx of refugees – 30,000 in early April, the government is preparing to welcome nearly a hundred thousand people by the end of the summer – it is now a “major hub”, installed Porte de Versailles, which serves as an airlock.

“Buses arrive anytime, the teams are there to feed and provide first aid,” Delphine Rouilleault continues. We have four hundred and forty seats, refugees spend one or two nights there before continuing their journey to Spain or Portugal. want to stay in France and who have no place of departure or family is accommodated in hotels in the provinces, the Paris region can not accommodate everyone. “

Like the Ukrainian diaspora, Olga Sakhnenko, married to a Frenchman, mobilizes. She managed to exfilter her family consisting of women: her aunt at 75, her mother at 61, her sister Oksana and her nieces Karina and Darina at 5 and 12 years old. They embarked on a journey by car from central Ukraine, made dangerous by snow, fuel rationing, military roadblocks and stormy borders.

“We picked them up in Hungary,” says Olga. I brought my sister and my nieces back by plane, my husband came home by car with my mother and my aunt. The support network warms my heart. At the school from our village near Avignon, the teachers reassured us : ‘We will take good care of your children’. “

Solidarity and civic housing

The family is slowly finding out, but remains permanently connected to Ukrainian TV channels and the Telegram network to keep in touch with those who have become. “They inform us, send us videos of the bombings, a friend filmed his mother’s apartment ravaged by Russian soldiers who took her hostage for two days …”

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

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

“A few days later, Viktoriia contacted me from Odessa. I was very scared of her I shared via Telegram his concerns and then his escape through Europe. I set up a cat to pay him a plane ticket. Today, cohabitation is going well, she has become a girlfriend but she is traumatized and I am not a shrink. She should consult. “

“This is the whole difficulty of citizen accommodation,” emphasizes Delphine Rouilleault, for whom good will and “I have a couch” are not enough. “If you go away on the weekends, leave the keys, something in the fridge, the eating habits are not the same, not to mention the nightmares of these people traumatized by the war. We manage the support social and legal, and work with JRS, Singapore, associations specializing in welcoming citizens. Everyone has a role to play. “

That of the UNHCR is also to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable refugees, minors, LGBT people, the elderly or the disabled.

Risk of violence and traffic on the roads of exile

“This crisis is specific, as all families are separated,” admits Céline Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR. is great, we need a framework to counter malicious offers.We have developed web platforms and a campaign Take care of yourself with the right information at borders and at stations. “

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

Today the question of settling in France arises. Many Ukrainian families say they want to travel as soon as possible. “Women’s first concern is to know if the father of their children is still alive,” Delphine Rouilleault recalls. “Afterwards, everything will depend on the duration of the war. Today we are in an integration logic: to learn French, to find a job so as not to remain in an overly uncertain situation. “

A positive sign, according to National Education, was per. March 31 6,800 Ukrainian children in school in France. This crisis will have the benefit of making us think about the importance we give to solidarity.

“The challenge for us today is that these French families, who say they are ready to welcome Ukrainian families into their homes, make a long-term commitment and take into account that those displaced by war will also come. from Afghanistan and Eritrea “, the Director-General continues. of French asylum country.

“And if we are happy that the state has demonstrated its ability to welcome people, we regret the gap in care. All war refugees, regardless of their nationality, must be protected. I do not want to argue, but see it as proof of that we are capable of doing better. “

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