A kindergarten for young Ukrainian refugees in Nice

Children climb trees. Who has fun around a ball. As a teacher, as a creator, as a designer, as a collector, as a gathering. In short, children who live.

Also in the summer, there is life in the yard of the Nice-Flore Kindergarten. All these children have one thing in common: they are Ukrainians. Specifically, displaced Ukrainians. Since the end of the school year, a kindergarten has welcomed them here in Nice-Ouest at the gate of the Phoenix Park.

“The city has made this school available for the summer, explains Iryna Podyriako, president of the Franco-Ukrainian association Côte d’Azur (Afuca). It is a daycare center for children aged 4 to 12 whose parents have found work or who are learning French with Pôle Emploi.”

In the late afternoon, the little Ukrainian girls watch for their parents’ arrival behind the school gates.

This nursery sprouted in Nice-Flore in June. Every Wednesday to begin with. Then five days a week, from July 11 to August 25. This temporary structure accommodates 46 children, can go up to 48. Their summer days are played between the courtyard, covered playground and canteen. A protective bubble, far from this war they fled.

“Arrived at the Start of the War”

They and they come from Irpin, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Chernihiv…”These families arrived at the beginning of the war”, testifies Oksana Basova, 47 years old. “These children have many traumas. But they are children. And when they play, they don’t think about it. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to have this airy center.”

Oksana teaches French there. She herself fled from Kiev together with the 12-year-old Oleksii. Her husband stayed. “He works, he contributes to maintaining the local economy”, she smiles. She does not hide her anguish every time there is grim news from Ukraine. So for Oksana, “it is very important to be among these Ukrainian children. To help them learn a little French and to socialize.”

Surrogate house

On this July afternoon, the boys are enjoying themselves in the shade of the sycamore and mulberry trees. Girls prefer creative hobbies. Around a table, it is an origami workshop. Further on, a small house is being built. “A big house, with two swimming pools”, smiled a little girl. A virtual house, as if to forget what we left behind.

Parents pick up their children after a day of work or French lessons.

“Some of them come from occupied territories [de l’Ukraine]explains Iryna. The war, they talk about it in their own way. Some find it difficult to express it, others do it more naturally.’

In Nice-Flore, the spirits are for leisure and learning. The courtyard wall bears witness to that. A tricolor consisting of blue-white-red hearts. A multicolored rooster next to a blue and yellow fleur-de-lis. Cultural mixing, crossroads of united nations. We can read on the board “Thank you for the holiday in Nice”In French in the text.

Healthy breath

French, Ukrainian, history, geography, sports, games… This is how Natalia Gleb and her compatriots mark the summer of the little refugees. She herself came to France with her two children. Afuca was able to recruit these supervisors thanks to a grant from the city sensitive to the solidarity emergency.

16.30 The bell rang. The children collect their bags and leave the yard.

4:30 p.m. The bell rings. Quick, bags. In a few moments the children had already left the games to press against the gate. Here are their parents. Those who were able to reach France, anyway.

David, 9, throws himself into the arms of his mother Oksana. For him too, this nursery offers a healthy breath of fresh air. “At first they were lost, leaves his mother, happy for the reception. There they learn French and have fun while they wait for the war to be over.”

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